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PERCEIVING PERSEPOLIS

"Perceiving Persepolis: Personal Narrative, Sense Memories, and Visual Simplicity in Marjane Satrapi's Animated Autobiography." Forum for World Literature Studies 3.1 (2011): 147–156.

This article is a shortened version of my master’s thesis, which I presented at the Purdue University conference Graphic Engagement: The Politics of Comics and Animation. A paper abstract is provided below.


ABSTRACT

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 and then as an animated film, Satrapi’s autobiographical account tells of her experiences growing up in Iran under the Shah — and then under the even more repressive Islamic Republic — before her parents sent her to boarding school in Vienna at the age of 14. While in Vienna, Satrapi found herself caught between East and West, having to adapt to her new culture while longing for home. In this essay, I suggest that Satrapi’s story works within the confines of what Laura Marks terms “intercultural cinema,” an expanding genre of film in which individual memories of diasporic experience are called upon to connect with cultural and social histories. This project is an examination of how the this animated film functions in its visual and narrative structure in order to loosen the perceived boundaries between cultures, geographies, histories, and sociopolitical backgrounds. Employing Walter Benjamin’s writings on storytelling, this analysis explores how Persepolis uses personal narrative to make room for new voices and subjectivities to emerge within the historical archive. I propose that Persepolis encourages an embodied, sensory, and interactive relationship between viewer and viewed and make a case for the expansive capabilities of a simplified visual medium to deepen our understanding of the profound influence that memory, tradition, and nostalgia have in the production of our individual and shared histories.