Reading Persepolis: Defining and Redefining Culture, Gender and Genre

Author: Tara Ann Carter


John Bartram High School

Year: 2011

Seminar: The Middle East Through the Eyes of Women

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: gender, Iran, Middle East, Persepolis, women

School Subject(s): English, Literature

The cultures of the Middle East are some of the most notoriously misunderstood in
America; my students are living proof of this when they make comments such as, “He
was wearing a turban so he clearly is a terrorist.” It is my goal to create a unit in which
students will not only understand the history and culture of a far-away land but also that
they will be able to internalize and apply these concepts to their own lives, by expanding
understanding of their own identities. Embedded within this unit, students will find
access to the discussions about what generically constitutes Literature as well as how
gender, narrative and culture are constructed.

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a graphic novel bildungsroman set during the years prior
to and following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The use of Satrapi’s graphic novel in this
unit enables students to look at the culture and history of Iran, the culture of women and
Islam in the Middle East and the generic form of the graphic novel simultaneously.

The graphic novel Persepolis is an exemplary tool for teaching history and literature.
This unit is designed for a 9th grade Honors Literature elective course, but is adaptable
for all high school grades. The focus of this unit is three-fold: development of historical
background knowledge as well as defining of key concepts and terms; understanding the
necessity for clear comprehension of the events in the novel, specifically in relation to
analysis of plot and characterization; and prompting students to question their own
identities and notions of culture, gender and genre.

These three facets create an informed and nuanced understanding of the multitude of
disciplines in which Persepolis offers insight. The activities and assignments in this unit
are designed to extend the ideas from the book to the students personally, by encouraging
text to self connections.

Download Unit: 11.04.02-1.pdf

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