This past Tuesday, I attended a “common text lecture” given by Hillary Chute with my FE100 group in McGuire Hall. I immediately felt like this was just going to be another boring lecture where I would constantly be counting the minutes that would go by on my wrist-watch. However, to my surprise, I became immediately intrigued when Ilona McGuinness introduced Chute. When she began to speak on stage, she had a very strong and powerful voice that did not necessarily match the size of her body. I could not help but see her as a preacher, who really wanted to persuade the youth of today into really taking the time to interpret, analyze and critically think about particular literary works. She was very clear and concise during her discussion because she was so immersed in this type of thinking. She began to speak about society’s understanding of American literary works and how we apply them to our culture in the modern world. She stated that she was specifically interested in the relationships between fiction and non-fiction that we see in contemporary comics, e.g. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
She explained the influence of comic strips and books that were a large part of American culture in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, e.g. Superman and Batman. Next, she explained the transition of this type of writing that now has become graphic novels. Graphic novels are narrative works in which the story is conveyed to the reader using comic form. Chute clarified that these graphic novels are very important to literature because they convey different messages to be interpreted instead of just words on a page. She has written a book called Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics, which analyzes the graphic novels of five authors, including Satrapi.
She discussed certain themes of Persepolis and how these themes can influence people in today’s society. Although Satrapi’s lifestyle was very different from many people in America today, the messages that were insinuated are very applicable to many people’s lives. She explained that even though Persepolis is about a young girl that decides to flee from Iran to America during the Islamic Revolution, the story is still a bildungsroman. Everyone on earth experiences many hardships throughout their lives from childhood to adulthood. Chute was explaining the parallels of Satrapi’s story and the fact that it does influence Americans because in many ways it does relate to our lives.
I think that Chute’s presentation can be related to one of our current readings called, “First Practice”, by Gary Gildner. “First Practice” is a poem about a team that is mentally preparing in their locker room before they head out onto the playing field for the first time. The team’s coach, who was previously in the military, is getting them pumped up and excited to go out and do their best on the field. I think that this relates to Chute’s discussion because graphic novels seem to be a bit easier to delve right into and explore. Chute states that people should build anticipation to read these unique literary works because they are a much more exciting way of reading. Just as the coach in the poem, he builds suspense and eagerness of his players to have them become more enthusiastic to go out onto the field.
Hillary Chute’s “common text lecture” gave me much more inspiration to make an attempt to search for new graphic novels. Her speech enlightened my outlook upon these types of novels and gave me a better understanding of their interpretations. I want to expand my horizons by reading more different literary works that are analyzed in different ways. I did enjoy reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and I will hopefully find new graphic novels to read.