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The comics medium has frequently been used to articulate the otherwise unspeakable nature of traumatic experience. In works ranging from Art Spiegelman’s Maus to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, we see that the combination of visual and verbal modes of representation can materialize trauma in a way that transcends a solely textual form. In her Persepolis series, Marjane Satrapi details her experience of historical trauma from the perspective of her childhood self. Her simplistic, minimalist drawing style, resembling that of a child, makes visible the atrocities of war in an unrealistic but easily digestible format. Satrapi disrupts master-narratives of Iranian history on two levels – one as told by ideologically driven revisionists of the Iranian Revolution, and the second as created by the seemingly progressive liberalism of the West. By transcribing the trauma of her childhood in and later exile from Iran, she constructs a countermemory of Iranian historical experience specifically aimed at Western readers. Satrapi thereby demonstrates that the process of retracing traumatic events, in her case, through comics, works against the larger cultural silence of Iranian people who are vilified in Western representations of Iran.


This paper was a Highly Commended Entry in the Undergraduate Awards Global Summit 2019