Rule, who has taught English at the University of British Columbia
and published several novels (Desert of the Heart, 1965; Against
the Season, 1971), projects a sense of personal engagement which
enhances rather than muddles her thoughtful, unpretentious literary
judgments. Her subject is relationships between women in modern
literature, ranging from the frankly sexual to the less explicitly
defined, from Radclyffe Hall to Sill Johnston. Her judgments are ad
hoc, not founded on a strong theoretical basis, and her virtues are
empirical, concrete virtues: fair-mindedness, sense of proportion,
a feeling for the actual texture of a book. Without succumbing to
paranoia, she is quick to spot male-centered assumptions. Thus she
refutes critics who talk about Wills Cather's "masculine
sensibility," points out the male-supremacist assumptions of The
Well of Loneliness, and comments with asperity on Colette's
romanticization of erotic relationships between women (fragile,
rarefied, exquisitely perverse), which she finds as irresponsible
as any heterosexual mystique. Her main achievement is making you
want to read every book she discusses; her chief flaw is a fondness
for paraphrase and plot rehash which swamps the analytical aspects
of her treatment. The intelligence and adroitness of the writing
mask a certain lack of substance. The sections on Elizabeth Bowen
and Ivy Compton-Burnett especially demonstrate the odd
contradiction between the lively surface and sketchily developed
content. It's a certain tribute to Rule's skill that one is never
tempted to think the subject itself thin or artificial, but her own
critical virtues are rather erratically served. (Kirkus Reviews)
Jane Rule examines the literary portrayal of lesbianism in works of
fiction, biography and autobiography by prominent 20th century
women writers, aiming to arrive at a better understanding of what
it is to be a gay wowan and to illuminate her own experience as a
lesbian. Jane Rule has also writes novels, including "Desert of the
Heart" which was made into the award-winning Hollywood film "Desert
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