The Body in Pain, The Ideals in Vein


  • Toloo Riazi University of California, Santa Barbara



Cuban revolution, graphic novel, gender studies, Iranian revolution.


Cuba: My Revolution, a graphic novel by Inverna Lockpez (2010) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000) depict the story of the Cuban and Iranian Revolutions through the eyes of their respective female protagonists. The semi-autobiographical or roman a? clef Cuba: My Revolution portrays Sonya’s life, a seventeen years old girl, in the revolutionary Cuba. Sonya, torn between her advocacy for the revolution and her dreams of becoming an artist, decides to become a surgeon to “serve the people”. The biographical novel of Satrapi narrates her own childhood as a ten-year-old girl in Iran of 1980s. The reader, in two volumes (hereafter Persepolis I and Persepolis II), witnesses Marji’s transformation to an adult alongside with political changes of the country. Although in the first place the two characters, particularly Sonya, greet the above motioned changes with optimism, soon the revolutionary illusion is replaced with disenchantment. The so-called disillusion is depicted in dialogues and the illustrations, inter alia. However, this paper aims to analyze the transformation of body of main female characters as a way in which failure of revolutionary ideals are shown. Indeed, the body as a major source of perception, allows Marji and Sonya to understand their countries and come to grips with the changing ideals as well as reality. I shall unfold the decline of the revolution from the angle of bodily transformation. It is my intention to consider the bodily basis of dystopia as a primary approach toward a painstaking study of the Cuban and Iranian Revolutions.

Author Biography

Toloo Riazi, University of California, Santa Barbara

Toloo Riazi is a Ph.D. Candidate at University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is specializing in contemporary Hispanic literature and culture. She has translated a few Spanish books into Persian, among them Cronopios and Famas (Julio Cortázar), Dear Diego (Elena Poniatowska) and The Basement Window (Antonio Buero-Vallejo). Her scholarly interests include revolutions, gender, cultural and film studies. Her dissertation focuses on comparative study between the Cuban revolution and its impact on the Iranian revolutionaries in 1970s. She hopes that she will be able to provide deeper insights to comparative literature studies focusing on two different regions, Latin America and Middle East.


Ahmed, S. (2010). The promise of happiness. Duke University Press.

Berlant, L. (2000). Pain, Privacy and Politics. In Transformations: Thinking through feminism (Psychology). Psychology Press.

Brown, W. (1993). Wounded attachments. Political Theory, 21(3), 390–410.

Chute, H. (2008). The Texture of Retracing in Marjane Satrapi’s" Persepolis". Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36(1/2), 92–110.

Derbel, E. (2017). Iranian Women in the Memoir: Comparing Reading Lolita in Tehran and Persepolis (1) and (2). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Fletcher, J., & Benjamin, A. (2012). Abjection, melancholia and love: The work of Julia Kristeva. Routledge.

Freund, P. E. S. (1990). The expressive body: a common ground for the sociology of emotions and health and illness. Sociology of Health & Illness, 12(4), 452–477.

Gibson, J. J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Houghton Mifflin.

Guerra, L. (2012). Visions of Power in Cuba: revolution, redemption, and resistance, 1959-1971. Univ of North Carolina Press.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh (Vol. 4). New york: Basic books.

Latour, B. (2004). How to talk about the body? The normative dimension of science studies. Body & Society, 10(2–3), 205–229.

Leder, D. (1992). A tale of two bodies: The Cartesian corpse and the lived body. In The body in medical thought and practice (pp. 17–35). Springer.

Lockpez, I., Haspiel, D., Villarrubia, J., & Brosseau, P. (2010). Cuba: My Revolution. DC Comics/Vertigo.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2013). Phenomenology of perception. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Satrapi, M. (2003). Persepolis I: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon.

Satrapi, M. (2004). Persepolis II: The story of a return. New York: Pantheon.

Scarry, E. (1987). The body in pain: The making and unmaking of the world. Oxford University Press, USA.

Sedgwick, E. K., & Frank, A. (2003). Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity. Duke University Press.

Synnott, A. (2002). The body social. Routledge.