Common Text Series Features “Persepolis”
By Julia Gavin
Striking up a conversation with your new roommate or classmate can be difficult during the first year of college. Instead of defaulting to questions about majors and dining hall preferences, first-year students can now count on having one interest in common: a young Iranian girl’s experiences during the 1979 Revolution.
As part of the successful Common Text Program, all first-year students will read Marjane Satrapi's award-winning autobiographical graphic novel, “Persepolis.” The series, an initiative of the English Department's First Year Writing Program, was designed to promote a sense of cohesion and shared academic exploration among first-year students across disciplines and to engage faculty in professional development and collaborative innovations in writing instruction.
The professors shared assignment ideas and ways to connect the text to the lives of their students during a workshop over the summer. The novel had almost been picked for use earlier in the program’s six years, but finally won the faculty vote this year, says Paula Haines, English professor and coordinator of the First Year Writing Program and an originator of the Common Text Series.
Haines hopes that the graphic novel format will spark students' initial interest in the novel and that they’ll be hooked on the tale that “presents powerful social and historical questions on a human scale, with warmth and humor."
“Marji is a compelling character and narrator, and her experience in the Iranian Revolution in the '70s feels especially relevant when we consider that difficult period in history with the recent ‘Islamic Spring’ and the continuing fallout and struggle going on in the Middle East,” says Haines.
“It feels important now to give students a wide view of the world and to let them know that their education at UMass Lowell is not something they're doing in isolation, but something that will open them up to understanding other parts of the globe and other moments in history.”
Since 2005, the Common Text Series has offered students varying forms of writing for their first-year focus, including the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Barbara Ehrenreich's “Nickeled and Dimed,” Bob Clyman’s play “Tranced,” William Shakespeare's “Measure for Measure” and “Class Matters,” a collection of The New York Times journalism among others.
In addition to class activities and a student essay contest, the series will offer public programming around “Persepolis” to connect students to the University and Lowell community.
The annual Common Text Film Series presented by the English Department will feature several movies related to “Persepolis.” All films will be screened in O’Leary 222 at 6:30 p.m. and are open to the public.
- Sept. 20: Abbas Kiarostami's “Ten,” a film that presents a view of contemporary Tehran through the eyes of a female taxi driver.
- Oct. 11: Ari Folman's animated film about Israel's 1982 Lebanon War “Waltz with Bashir.”
- Nov. 8: The animated film adaptation of Satrapi’s novel.
- Dec. 6: “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo Del Toro’s beautiful and frightening film about clashing adult and child worlds.
To offer students an inside look at the life of an author on the genre, critically acclaimed cartoonist and playwright Lynda Barry will meet with students and hold workshops Oct. 24 to 26 as the fall 2011 UMass Lowell Center for Arts and Ideas artist-in-residence. Barry will also give an artist talk about her work on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m. in O’Leary 222, which will be open to the public. Barry’s visit is sponsored by the Center for Arts and Ideas, the Dean of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the English Department and the Art Department.
For more information about events sponsored by the Common Text Program, contact Paula_Haines@uml.edu.