Graphic Engagement: The Politics of Comics and Animation. The Purdue Comparative Literature Program, Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, September 2–4, 2010.
This conference explored the ways comics and animation can engage audiences politically, influencing the definitions of gender, race, religion, class, and nationhood. Events included panel sessions, artist talks, and film screenings.
I introduced a film screening and presented the paper “Perceiving Persepolis: Personal Narrative, Sense Memories, and Visual Simplicity in Marjane Satrapi’s Animated Autobiography.” An edited version of this talk was subsequently published in a special issue of Forum for World Literature Studies, which was based on the conference’s proceedings. My paper abstract can be found below.
Perceiving Persepolis: Personal Narrative, Sense Memories, and Visual Simplicity in Marjane Satrapi's Animated Autobiography
In Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the personal is political. Originally told through a series of graphic novels before its adaptation into an animated film in 2007, Satrapi’s autobiography tells of her experiences growing up first in Iran under the Shah and later under the even more repressive Islamic Republic. When her parents sent her to boarding school in Vienna at the age of 14, Satrapi found herself caught between East and West. In this discussion of Persepolis, I suggest that Satrapi’s narrative exemplifies what Laura Marks terms “intercultural cinema,” an expanding genre of film that seeks to portray exilic or diasporic experience. This project examines how Satrapi’s novels and film visually and narratively work to challenge perceived boundaries between cultures, geographies, histories, and socio-political backgrounds. My analysis explores how Persepolis uses personal remembrance and storytelling to integrate new voices and subjectivities into the historical archives while encouraging an embodied, sensory, and interactive relationship between viewer and viewed. Throughout this essay, I argue for the expansive potential of graphic novels and animation, simplified visual media that can uniquely lay bare the complex intersections between memory, tradition, and nostalgia in the social production of individual and collective histories.