Humanism Across Culture

Persepolis is a text that in many ways falls into a league of it’s own. For me what stands out about it the most is Marjane Satrapi’s use of the style of the graphic novel. This form is something that is for many, completely different from how we are used to texts functioning. In the academic sense, in the sense of popular literary culture, and in my own experience we do not often experience texts in this way. There is a very specific relationship that this style creates with the audience. When we sit down to read a regular novel, short story, play, or poem we are forced to use our own experiences with the world to create images of what is happening in the text. With the graphic novel, like films, we are given not only clues but very direct interpretations of the words that we are seeing. So when Satrapi talks about being both religious and modern/avant-garde as a child, we are shown what that looks like to her and are not left only with our own preconceived notions or schema of what it would look like.

This style speaks to a feminist standpoint as well as a humanist standpoint. In an interview for the website bookslut, Satrapi says “I believe that we say too much ‘We the women’ and ‘We the men,’ but should say ‘We the human beings.’” Satrapi favors a humanist standpoint and denies feminism in this article but without belaboring the point I’ll say that my definition of feminism falls exactly in sync with the above quote so I include feminism in this argument. In an interview about the movie version of Persepolis she reiterates the same point.

The abstraction of the animated figures in the movie opposed to real life figures, in much the same way as graphic novel opposed to plain text, destroys or preconceived notions of a demographic. This style creates a universalism and globalism through humanism. As an American reading this graphic novel I appreciate the accessible way that this text functions. It goes without saying that this text explores many very serious and even horrifying political concerns. Concerns that are also in many ways very specific to a geographical area. But the way that she turns everything, the people and the issues, into universalized, human issues is what makes this text so important and so powerful.


Ifcnews. “Marjane Satrapi: “Persepolis” a Pro-Iranian Humanist Tale.” YouTube. YouTube, 11 Oct. 2007. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon, 2003. Print.

Tully, Annie. “An Interview with Marjane Satrapi.” Bookslut. Oct. 2004. Web. 28


One thought on “Humanism Across Culture

  1. I agree completely that Satrapi makes these heavy-handed issues universal and accessible as well (It’s interesting that she chose to present her movie as animated in order to preserve the universal aspect as well). It can be difficult to accept or even conceive of horrifying experiences that we haven’t had first hand. By making her story a graphic novel she allows us into her world and helps us to understand what those things felt and looked like for her. The humanism is my favorite aspect of this novel. Somehow seeing Marjane transition from a little girl to an adult makes me connect with her on a more personal level. She isn’t expecting me to just accept her ideas, she is explaining how she came to those ideas through her personal experiences and that makes it more real and believable to me. Even as an adult there are a few of her experiences as a child that I can identify with and appreciate.

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