Ramzi FawazOct 13, 2022
New York University Press 2022
Ramzi Fawaz, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a new book that weaves together the more contemporary history of feminism and women’s liberation, the gay liberation movement, feminist and queer theory, and iconic popular culture artifacts in order to understand gendered and sexual forms in context of gender and sexual fluidity. This is a brilliant book, interdisciplinary in scope and approach, taking the reader on a journey through theoretical frameworks and interpretive understandings of where we often see queer forms, and what we think about those forms. Fawaz notes that he is working to tell a story, interpreting cultural artifacts to forefront the ideas from feminist and queer theory, knitting these approaches together to guide us through a fascinating understanding of what we see when we watch films, or television, or read comics, or enjoy Broadway performances. These interpretations provide us with ways of seeing identity and shape within narrative forms and creative storytelling. But Fawaz is also pushing against an excess of thinking that all identities and forms are fluid—instead, Queer Forms (NYU Press, 2022) examines the capacity of identity and forms to, essentially, shapeshift, which is not the same as being fluid, since shapeshifting is an adaption, and thus is not without form itself. Form has little meaning until or unless they are/it is interpreted by others.
The thrust of the work that Fawaz is doing in Queer Forms ultimately is about freedom and how we can each exist as free individuals, especially when there are often social and legal rules that constrain us as individuals with distinct identities that traverse a host of markers and qualities. Popular culture artifacts can provide the room and opportunity to imagine identities in different forms and contexts. Queer Forms provides the reader with an archive of culture forms as a kind of gift, helping us to see and understand how we might interpret or reinterpret the queer and feminist past so that we approach our daily contemporary life with that understanding. Fawaz explains the variegated theories that frame these interpretations and gets at this historical foundation—especially of the liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s—in order to engage in a valuable consideration of freedom.
Lilly J. Goren is a professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @gorenlj.