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Ramzi Fawaz - Queer Love on Barbary Lane: The Serial Experience of Coming Out of the Closet with Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City

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sep 29

Thu, Sep 29 2022, 5PM - 6:30PM

Blattner Multipurpose Room | 75 Arkansas Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107 View map

Part of event series: VISUAL & CRITICAL STUDIES FORUM | 2022/2023 SERIES

Ramzi Fawaz.jpg

Organized by

CCA Graduate Visual & Critical Studies and CCA Graduate Comics

Event description

In Queer Forms, Ramzi Fawaz explores how the central values of 1970s movements for women’s and  gay liberation—including consciousness-raising, separatism, and coming out of the closet—were  translated into a range of American popular culture forms. Throughout this period, feminist and gay  activists fought social and political battles to expand, transform, or wholly explode definitions of so called “normal” gender and sexuality. In doing so, they inspired artists, writers, and filmmakers to  invent new ways of formally representing, or giving shape to, non-normative genders and sexualities. This included placing women, queers, and gender outlaws of all stripes into exhilarating new  environments—from the streets of an increasingly gay San Francisco to a post-apocalyptic  commune, from an upper-East Side New York City apartment to an all-female version of Earth— and finding new ways to formally render queer genders and sexualities by articulating them to  figures, outlines, or icons that could be imagined in the mind’s eye and interpreted by diverse  publics. Surprisingly, such creative attempts to represent queer gender and sexuality often appeared  in a range of traditional, or seemingly generic, popular forms including the sequential format of  comic strip serials, the token figures of science fiction genre, the narrative conventions of film  melodrama, and the serialized rhythm of installment fiction. Through studies of queer and feminist  cultural productions including Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band (1970), Armistead Maupin’s Tales  of the City (1976-1983), Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames (1983), and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (1989-1991), Fawaz show how artists innovated in many popular mediums and genres to make the  experience of gender and sexual non-conformity recognizable to mass audiences in the modern US.  Ultimately, Queer Forms tells the pre-history of the contemporary renaissance in feminist and  LGBTQ political cultures by developing a genealogy of late twentieth-century artifacts that projected  images of gender and sexual rebellion, which came to infuse the American popular imagination in  the 1970s and after. 

About "Queer Love on Barbary Lane: The Serial Experience of Coming Out of the Closet with Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City" Ramzi Fawaz says:

In this talk, I analyze the content and reading experience of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, the  most popular serialized gay fiction of the 1970s, which appeared in daily installments in the San  Francisco Chronicle between 1976-1983. I argue that the serialized rhythm of the narrative—which  followed the social and sexual misadventures of a cadre of queer friends in San Francisco’s Nob Hill  neighborhood—modeled gay liberation’s conception of “coming out of the closet” about one’s  sexuality as a process that unfolds over time through repeated encounters with new erotic  possibilities. I draw upon interviews I conducted with actual San Francisco readers of Maupin’s  original text alongside close analysis of the rhetorical and literary modes of address that Maupin  deployed to make “coming out” a widely accessible form for articulating one’s sexual and social  desires, regardless of one’s specific sexual identity. I show the story’s unfolding narrative about  1970s queer social life and the actual experience of reading it daily alongside other San Francisco  residents helped disseminate the radical sexual politics of gay liberation to both gay and straight  audiences alike.

After his lecture, Professor Fawaz will be in conversation with Professor Jeanette Roan (CCA History of Art and Visual Culture and Visual & Critical Studies programs). Dr. Roan is an interdisciplinary scholar. She is working on a study of graphic novels and comics from the perspective of visual studies theories and methodologies, with a particular emphasis on Asian American comics creators and representations of racial identity. For more information on Prof. Roan, see this biography on the CCA website.

Ramzi Fawaz is an award-winning queer cultural critic, public speaker, and educator. He is Romnes Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of two books including The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (2016), and Queer Forms (2022). The New Mutants received the 2017 ASAP Book Prize and the best first book award from the New York Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. With Darieck Scott he co-edited a special issue of American Literature titled “Queer About Comics,” which was awarded the 2019 best special issue of the year from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. 

Entry details

Free and open to the public. COVID protocols in place. Masks are required indoors for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals; vaccinated individuals may remove masks outdoors but unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks at all times.