Femme fatales, drag queens and sadomasochistic play are a few subjects explored in the upcoming English course Gender Issues in Literature and Film.
Available in spring 2019 at Orange Coast College, the class will be taught by Flavia Ruzi for the first time.
An English instructor and OCC alumna, Ruzi said students will examine gender, sexuality and the relationship between power and sex.
“Being able to talk about sex and sexuality I think is really important. I think the more we talk about it, the easier it is to understand ourselves and the way that our bodies work in the world,” Ruzi said.
According to Ruzi, the class will teach students to think critically across different media formats, from TV shows to graphic novels, photography, podcasts and stand-up comedy.
Students will explore different variations of masculinity, including the violent traditional role as seen in Chuck Palahniuk’s book-to-film “Fight Club,” to content found in incel chatrooms — an online community of self-identified involuntary celibates.
Drawings by homoerotic artist Tom of Finland and his portrayal of gay masculinity will be observed as well.
Work from race theorist and literary critic Hortense J. Spillers will also be featured, including Tony Morrison’s 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved” and the 2016 queer coming-of-age film “Moonlight.”
Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial photographer known for his scenes depicting nudity, homosexuality and sadomasochism will be discussed, including his use of black queer bodies.
Mapplethorpe’s work paved the way for future queer artists, allowing them to openly display their homosexuality in art, after winning a lawsuit that accused him of displaying obscene material.
“Paris is Burning,” a documentary about drag queens, along with episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a competitive television series seeking America’s next top drag queen, will be screened.
Students will look at the #MeToo movement and how it has shifted relationships and power structures between men and women, how it empowers individuals, it’s limits and the backlash received around the movement.
Ruzi aims to create a safe environment for her students and said, “if they told me something like that had happened to them, I would believe them.”
A podcast looking at the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky will be part of a critique on different types of feminism.
Prior to Ruzi teaching the class, Karen Felts revived the course during her 18 years as an English instructor at OCC. Through word-of-mouth and campuswide advertising, Felts attracted sociology, psychology and other non-English majors to her interdisciplinary class.
Felts taught the class twice, once in 2016 and once in the spring 2018 semester.
“I kept trying to envision a class where people could feel like they could talk and debate, and feel engaged and safe in talking about issues related with their identities,” Felts said. “Or their friends’ identities or even the types of experiences that they were facing on campus to some extent.”
Andrea Nguyen, a 25-year-old undeclared major who took Felts’ class, said the material she learned was relevant to everyday life and current events.
“I like any class that explores theory through things that we engage on a day-to-day basis,” Nguyen said.
The course fulfills a general education transfer credit for humanities and is transferable for the Universities of California and California State Universities.
The class will be held Wednesdays from 7:10 p.m. to 10 p.m.