Unveiling Cultural Filters: Teaching “The Veil” in Puerto Rico and Saudi Arabia

Gregory Stephens


A freshman English course designed to spark critical thinking in cross-cultural contexts for ESL students was taught in the Middle East (Spring, 2014) and in the Caribbean (Fall, 2014). The university experience was framed as a rite of passage. As models of how to narrate in-between-ness, students read stories from Coming of Age around the World. “The Veil” by Marjane Satrapi provoked dichotomized responses. This essay is a comparative analysis of student response to this excerpt from Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis. Students’ voices are excerpted to illustrate how their respective dominant cultures—Wahabi Islam in Arabia, and U.S. mass media in Puerto Rico—acted as filters, veiling what they could see in this text. This essay surveys multi-disciplinary scholarship on veiling, as well as the critical reception of Persepolis, to suggest how Satrapi’s preferred reading, embedded in the visual narrative, challenges readers to see beyond apparent binary of “freedom” vs. “the veil.”

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/selt.v3n1p83


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