January 23, 2014 By: Stefanie Dion Jones
With the start of the spring semester, the 2013-14 UConn Reads program gets under way with a variety of event programming offered across the University’s campuses in honor of this year’s book selection, Persepolis, a best-selling, autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi.
While events will range from book club discussions to workshops about Persian literature and calligraphy, this year’s UConn Reads program will culminate in a free lecture by acclaimed cartoonist Art Spiegelman on the Storrs campus on March 3.
Spiegelman’s comics are best known for their illustrative style and controversial contents. In 1992, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his graphic novel Maus, which depicts the story of his parents’ experience as Holocaust survivors.
In his lecture, “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?” Spiegelman will offer a chronological tour of the evolution of comics. He believes that in our post-literate culture the importance of the comic is on the rise, for “comics echo the way the brain works. People think in iconographic images, not in holograms, and people think in bursts of language, not in paragraphs.”
“Art Spiegelman’s lecture will help us place Satrapi’s work in the larger context of graphic novels,” says Anne D’Alleva, associate professor in the School of Fine Arts and chair of the 2013-14 UConn Reads Selection Committee. “Satrapi has often expressed her admiration for Spiegelman’s work, and the two are often compared.”
Spiegelman, who began drawing professionally at age 16, studied art and philosophy at Binghamton University’s Harpur College of Arts and Sciences before becoming part of the underground comix subculture of the 1960s and 1970s. As creative consultant for Topps Bubble Gum Co. from 1965 to 1987, Spiegelman created Wacky Packages, Garbage Pail Kids, and other novelty items, and taught history and aesthetics of comics at the School for Visual Arts in New York from 1979 to 1986. In 1980, he founded RAW, the acclaimed avant-garde comics magazine, with his wife, Françoise Mouly. His work has been published in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, where he was a staff artist and writer from 1993 to 2003. In 2007, he was a Heyman Fellow of the Humanities at Columbia University, and in 2011, Spiegelman won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor.
Persepolis is the first graphic novel chosen as the UConn Reads book selection since the program was launched in 2011. UConn President Susan Herbst established the UConn Reads program to bring the University community together for an annual common reading program. The inaugural book selection was Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Knopf, 2009), a nonfiction bestseller by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
The Spiegelman lecture will be held at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 3. The event is free. For more information, visit jorgensen.uconn.edu. To learn more about the UConn Reads program and where you can locate a copy of this year’s book selection, visit uconnreads.uconn.edu. To follow the UConn Reads conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #UConnReads.