Gender Studies Now: Queer Love on Barbary Lane: The Serial Experience of Coming Out of the Closet with Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City
Gender Studies Now Series presents Ramzi Fawaz, University of Wisconsin.
In this talk, Professor Fawaz analyzes 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. Fawaz argues 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. He draws 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. Fawaz shows 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.
Ramzi Fawaz is a Romnes Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (NYU Press, 2016) and Queer Forms (NYU Press, 2022). The New Mutants received the ASAP Book Prize and the First Book Prize of 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 won the 2019 best special issue of the year award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. He is currently at work on a third book tentatively titled Literary Theory on Acid, which argues for the importance of literary and cultural studies perspectives on the contemporary psychedelic renaissance.