CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 1999
Lynne Fernie (Coordinating Director). Rina Fraticelli (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: Great Jane Productions (Distributed by the National Film Board of Canada), 1997.
26 min., 15 sec. VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9196 129.
Rule, Jane, 1931- -Criticism and interpretation.
Authors, American-20th century.
Authors, Canadian (English)-20th century.
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Pat Sadowy.
"I started writing fiction principally to be free to say what I thought and felt," explains author Jane
Rule early in this video which explores those thoughts and feelings by means of a fair balance of
three types of footage: Rule talking about her writing and her writing process, critical response
offered by critic and teacher Marilyn Shuster, and, excerpts from Rule's works. The latter are
presented with juxtaposed scenes that relate to the content of the writing; however, the images
are unusual and might make little sense to those unfamiliar with the specific works. Rule's books
which are discussed, however briefly, include The Desert of the Heart, Contract with the
World, After the Fire, Memory Board, The Young in One Another's Arms, This is Not
for You, Against the Season, and Lesbian Images.
Born in the USA, Jane Rule chose to move to Canada and to become part of the Canadian literary
community. Rule sees writing from several cultural vantage points--from the point of nationality,
social class, sexual orientation, and geographic region, among others. Within classical definitions
of comedy and tragedy, Rule discusses the conscious decisions she makes as a fiction writer,
complex decisions about what to write about, how to plot in light of morality, and how to have
her characters gain insights into themselves as their stories progress.
If used in schools, this video would be most appropriate for students at the higher secondary or
university level, particularly those in Women's Studies or Lesbian and Gay Studies. Because of its
controversial subject matter, teachers at all levels will benefit by previewing the video to support
students' understanding. For mature readers familiar with Jane Rule, this film provides several
interesting perspectives. For readers unfamiliar with her work, this film may be too slow-paced
and the examples too esoteric to catch their interest. It would serve well, though, for novice
writers who are interested in gaining exposure to the wisdom of a prolific, dedicated and
intelligent author concerning her reasons for writing and the thinking behind her words.
Jane Rule's lesbian identity is surely a bold facet of this film. However, unlike the NFB film,
Fiction and Other Truths: A Film About Jane Rule, which has a much heavier focus on Rule's
political passions, the focus in Jane Rule . . . writing is more confined to literature. The two
might well be shown together.
Pat Sadowy teaches courses in Language and Literacy in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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