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College Read 2019-20: Persepolis

Across the Curriculum at BC

Although not necessary, an introduction to graphic memoirs and the history of Iran as it relates to the plot of Persepolis can help orient students in their reading. 

Below are guides for possible ways to introduce Persepolis to students that are easily adaptable to content and Pathway. 

Pathway Examples
  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • World History
  • World Religions
  • Social Psychology
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Sociology (Social Institutions, Marriage & Family)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 
Discussions on Themes

Themes of Persepolis include:

  • Culture and cultural diversity - Iranian culture, Islamic traditions, the influence of American popular culture
  • History, governance, and civic ideals - Revolution, Islamic Revolution, civil disobedience, religion in politics
  • War and terror - Violence as depicted in comic panels, torture, extremism 
  • Language - Political slogans
  • Coming of age - Growing up during revolution, girlhood, family relationships, defiance of adult figures/ youthful rebellion  
  • Feminism - Generational differences, feminism in a non-Western context

Think/ Pair/ Share: Why the Graphic Novel Format?

The goal is to get students to probe the nature of the graphic novel format chosen by Marjane Satrapi to tell her story. 

​Ask students to turn to the diptych on page 102 - depicting young soldiers exploding on the battlefield in the upper panel and Marji and her friends dancing in the lower panel. Ask students to describe the illustrations. Then ask questions along the lines of

  • Why would Satrapi choose to present this scene in this visual way?
  • What might be lost (or gained) had she decided to tell her story in a more traditional prose form? 

Create pairs (can also work as a small group) of students. Using similarly graphics-heavy page of the text - pages 15, 42, 61, 71, 77, 89, 95, 235, 245, 250, 281, 290, 305, 309, and 329 - and discuss these same questions. Have the students confer, note one another's thoughts, and then share with the class. 

The following question may be used as a prompt for discussion posts or an out of class written assignment: "Based on what you’ve heard from the different groups, why do you think Satrapi might have utilized the graphic novel form to tell her story?” 

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details 


Whole Book Recap & Reflection
  • How does the author indicate a change in one of the characters?
  • Which technique seems the most successful in revealing the turmoil of the changes in the society?
  • How does the author use diction effectively?
  • How is the role of religion in this book similar to that in your own community? How is it different?
  • In what ways is the family in the book similar to yours? How is it different?
  • What similarities and differences can you identify between the politics of the Middle East and those in our country?

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • World History
  • World Religions
  • Social Psychology
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Sociology (Social Institutions, Marriage & Family)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See more info at link

The Vegetable 

Selection from Persepolis 2 by Satrapi with discussion questions. Themes of this selection include: adolescence, teenagers, and parent relationships. 

Understanding Storytelling with Pictures

Provide and review the Graphic Novel/Comics Terms and Concepts sheet (at link below).

1. Drawing Characters - Have students refer to the upper-right panel on page 8 of Persepolis, which offers an iconic version of God as an elderly, bearded wise man. Contrast page 8 with page 11. Ask students what they notice about the human faces: How are they different from the image of God? Ask students to talk about why they think the author has chosen to represent the figures in this way and what the significance is to the story.

Examine the bottom panel on page 9. What do students notice about the faces in this panel? What do they think the figures here represent?

2. How the Story is Laid Out - Have students look at the following examples of different layout elements:

  • Page 11, top panel. The image offers a fine example of background providing information that is outside the text of the story.
  • Page 12, middle row, right panel. Placing the figures in the center of the panel with nothing in the background allows the reader to focus on them with no distractions.
  • Page 15, the larger of the two panels. The size and foregrounding of the suffering, flaming figures is powerful and commands attention.
  • Pages 16 and 17, depicting the hands and feet of various characters. Note how they convey many emotions. This next section provides some fine examples of how the artist reveals information about various characters.
  • Page 16, upper left. Father's folded arms suggest resolve
  • Page 16, upper middle. Marij's hands on her hips reveal determination
  • Page 16, bottom left. Marji strides purposefully toward her destiny
  • Page 17, middle left. Marji enumerates key points with her finger
  • Page 17, middle right. Father uses his hand to cover his face in sorrow.

Think/ Pair/ Share or Small Group Prompts:

  1. Have student pairs read the chapter you have been discussing ("The Bicycle," pages 10-18) and discover additional visual elements that contribute to comprehension. As students read, they should annotate (in their notebooks or using sticky notes) any additional strategies and techniques that you have not already discussed.
  2. Have students select a panel that confuses them and discuss it with a partner. What strategy can they use to improve comprehension?
  3. Have students identify panels that variously provide humor, show a character's conflict, teach history, clarify the setting, and underscore the importance of religion.

Possible Homework/ Written Assignment: Students should read "The Water Cell" (pages 18-25) and use sticky notes to identify as many graphic elements as possible. On a separate sheet of paper, they should list these elements and link them to the (a) character of the narrator, (b) the role of religion, (c) the political realities of the time period, or (d) the narrator's family relationship as appropriate.

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details


Gallery Walk: What Do You See? What Do You Infer?

This strategy is adapted from "The Model for Interpreting Art," developed by Linda Friedlander, Curator of Education at the Yale Center for British Art. 22 This exercise will be dual purpose. Students will learn how to read pictures and develop their visual literacy through this exercise, and they will also deal with their perceptions of culture. The point of this activity is to get the students talking about their perceptions, their interpretations, and their misconceptions. For the first activity, we will use images from the Islamic Revolution.

The objectives for this lesson are that students will gain a stronger understanding of the Islamic Revolution by looking at and analyzing images from this time period.This lesson will come before the reading of Persepolis. The students will look at images and explain what they see, then they will explain what is happening, and then they will explain how they know what is happening or they will ask questions about what they don't understand. I will use the BBCs "The Islamic Revolution- -In Pictures" as a resource to implement this strategy. 23 This is a nine-picture slide with different images from the Islamic Revolution. 

Pathway Connections: 

  • World History
  • Photography
  • Art Appreciation
  • Social Psychology
  • World Religion
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Sociology (Social Institutions, Marriage & Family)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details

Pairings: Compare & Contrast 

Persepolis can be paired with with other works - videos, historical events, poetry, writing, speeches, etc. - students can explore themes as they relate among different historical events, cultures, and narrative formats. Assign students to compare and/or contrast Persepolis with various other works including those at the CommonLit link (below). 

  • An informational text on Capitalism
  • Claude McKay's poem "If We Must Die"
  • Malala Yousafzai's 2013 address to the United Nations 
  • An informational text on Censorship 
  • An informational text North Korea

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • World History
  • World Religions
  • Social Psychology
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Sociology (Social Institutions, Marriage & Family)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details

Reading Pictures Activity 

This lesson will take place toward the end of the unit, after the students have finished reading Persepolis. The objective is for the students to grasp a deeper understanding of selected frames in the story and to articulate that understanding in writing and also verbally. Through this activity, students will practice visual literacy skills. The students will be required to choose a panel or series of panels from the text, and they will write an essay on the effect of the images and Satrapi's use of the illustrations to add meaning to the text. The students will focus on the techniques used in the illustration such as shading, pattern, repetition, contrast, size, etc.

The students will be given class time to choose an image or series of images to analyze. They will write a short essay on the effect of the images. After students have completed the writing assignment, they will partner with a classmate who has completed the task as well. They will share their observations with each other. 

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details


Pairings: Compare & Contrast 

Persepolis can be paired with with other works - videos, historical events, poetry, writing, speeches, etc. - students can explore themes as they relate among different historical events, cultures, and narrative formats. Assign students to compare and/or contrast Persepolis with various other works including those at the CommonLit link (below). 

  • An informational text on Capitalism
  • Claude McKay's poem "If We Must Die"
  • Malala Yousafzai's 2013 address to the United Nations 
  • An informational text on Censorship 
  • An informational text North Korea

Pathway Connections: 

  • Art Appreciation
  • Literature
  • Composition, Developmental Writing
  • Reading, English for Academic Purposes
  • Communications, Speech
  • World History
  • World Religions
  • Social Psychology
  • Teacher Education (Reading)
  • Sociology (Social Institutions, Marriage & Family)
  • Honors & Interdisciplinary Studies 

See link for more details

How to Show the Film

You are able to show the film for student or class view only if you have a copy of the DVD or other tangible format. If you would like to borrow the film from the library you can - each library has copies of the Persepolis DVD for you to borrow and show. 

You CANNOT SHOW A STREAMING COPY OF THE FILM in your class even if you have a subscription to it. 

The film I want to show is on Netflix. Can I stream this through my Netflix account in the classroom?
Subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon have very detailed membership agreements that may forbid the streaming of subscribed content in a classroom or other public venue. When you agree to the terms of membership, you enter into a contract and the terms of that contract trump any applicable exception in copyright. Therefore, if the membership agreement with Netflix prohibits the showing of the film in a classroom, you are bound by the terms of that agreement even if the face to face teaching exception would otherwise allow it. We encourage instructors who plan to show films as part of their class, particularly when the class is taught online, to investigate the availability of films through Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other subscription or short term rental streaming services and to require their students to access that content on their own through their own subscription or account.

From https://guides.uflib.ufl.edu/copyright/video

Discussion Questions for Talking about the Film Adaptation of Persepolis

Animation vs. Live Action 

  1. Marjane chose to use animation for the movie instead of real actors.  Why did she do this?
  2. How does this film differ from other animated movies you've seen?
  3. Marjane Satrapi, creator of both the book and the film, has stated that animation has a universal quality that live action (real actors) does not. What does she mean by this? Do you agree?
  4. Marjane mentions that some parts of the story would be difficult to portray in live action, such as the dream sequences (i.e., Marjane talking to God). How would this type of scene be if it were with live action instead of animation? How would it be more or less effective?

Going Beyond the First Book

  1. The film of Persepolis goes beyond the first book of Marjane's and includes scenes of her life from her adulthood. What problems does Marji experience after she leaves Tehran to live in Vienna?
  2. Which problems are personal to her or are a result of her being an expatriate?
  3. When Marji returns to Tehran from Vienna, how would you describe her life?
  4. The film is a graphic novel brought to life in a black and white animation. Occasionally, the film moves to color. Why might Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (the filmmakers) choose to use mostly black and white with rare use of color?

 

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