"The talk that I gave last week, “Flame On” explores some of the ways in which the Fantastic Four reinvented the American superhero from its previous figuration as a figure of white, masculine vulnerability, to one of intense vulnerability, body transformation and mutation. The way in which the comic book did that was by imagining a kind of fantastic family formation, four characters who appeared to be normative social types, mother and father, two bickering children, or, you might say, the child and the uncle. It imagines what would happen if the normative family was transformed into mutants, their bodies literally absorbing some of the textures and objects of the material world of the 1950s and early 1960s. Part of what I try to do in this talk is to trace the comic book’s investment in presenting these normal bodies as monstrous or mutated, to actually try to imagine what it would mean to take pleasure in those mutations, to want to be out of the ordinary, to want not fit into the nuclear family. And so I argue, essentially, that the comic book is an extended visual meditation on forms of non-normative or queer embodiment in the 1960s."
The final question, and we ask this to everybody, is that if you could define American Studies in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
I think that American Studies is the exploration of the numerous ways in which people dream about what it means to belong.
@ cousin Josh interviews Dr. Ramzi Fawaz