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Passionate Communities

Passionate Communities: Reading Lesbian Resistance in Jane Rule's Fiction

Marilyn R. Schuster
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Passionate Communities
    Book Description:

    In this new full-length study of Jane Rule's life and work, Marilyn Schuster argues that Rule's novels provide a way of "writing and reading lesbian" that resists and subverts dominant discourses of gender and sexuality-both those of mainstream culture and of political and sexual subcultures. From her earliest novel, Desert of the Heart (1964), Rule's fiction has provided a challenge to the concept of a fixed identity and to the identity politics founded on such a concept. Incorporating all of Jane Rule's early work-including unpublished manuscripts, letters, magazine and newspaper columns, as well as fan mail she received-Schuster also draws on interviews, conversations, and personal encounters with the author to elicit the ways in which Rule interrogates the meanings and politics of sexuality, the relationship between sexuality and language, and the stakes of communities in individual claims on identity. Passionate Communities is a thorough, engaging, and long-overdue study of an important voice in lesbian literature and gay and lesbian politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6377-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. ONE Sailing to Galiano: Jane Rule at Home
    (pp. 1-51)

    Poetry and fiction can sometimes do what theory has not yet learned: to speak a language of desire where there had been only silence or denial. Adrienne Rich has taught this to us, as have Audre Lorde and Monique Wittig and many other lesbian writers who refused to be silenced long before the current wave of queer writing. Jane Rule’s fiction—and the ways it has been received and ignored—provides a rich ground for exploring the creation of a language of desire in a context of denial.

    Born in New Jersey in 1931, Jane Rule matured as a woman...

  5. TWO Resisting Reason
    (pp. 52-86)

    “1954 was the last year I celebrated the 4th of July. I was not in a patriotic mood.” So begins an essay, “The 4th of July, 1954,” that Rule wrote thirty years after the event and which was included in the collection published in 1984 calledA Hot-Eyed Moderate. The essay is a tight narrative knot in which Rule weaves reflections on history (1954 and 1984), place (England, the U.S., and Canada), and self-perception (the unpublished twenty-three-year-old and the outspoken fifty-three-year-old). Under the sign of celebratory patriotism, in a year noted for the rise of McCarthyism, Rule narrates a series...

  6. THREE Revising Fictions: Early Experiments
    (pp. 87-128)

    Jane Rule wrote her first published story, “If There Is No Gate,” in 1959;The San Francisco Reviewpublished it the following year. She also included it in her first collection of short stories,Theme for Diverse Instruments,published by Talonbooks in Canada in 1975. The story stages the resistance of the unconscious to representation and, therefore, to conscious examination. At the same time, the story invites the reader to examine the dreams and images the narrator finds it impossible to represent. The story explores the dilemma of a narrator wounded by her failures as a woman. Turning on the...

  7. FOUR Composing Selves: Dueling Narratives
    (pp. 129-183)

    In “My Country Wrong,” the narrative is prompted by a gap, a “hole in the schedule.” The narrator herself represents a lapse in meaning; she is presented as a lesbian caught between conflicting systems of meaning, clothed in the manners and conventions of an upbringing that no longer fits, an outsider to the new domesticity of her heterosexual friends, a tourist in the bar scene to which her lesbian friend takes her. As the scene at her parents’ Christmas dinner illustrates, though, the narrator is not just an empty place at her family’s table; for the reader, the narrator provides...

  8. FIVE Construction Sites: Narratives of Houses and Homes
    (pp. 184-214)

    Since the mid-1980s, feminists have gone home to examine the workings of history, culture, and geography in the making of identity and community. Minnie Bruce Pratt’s autobiographical narrative “Identity: Skin Blood Heart,” Biddy Martin and Chandra Talpede Mohanty’s collaborative reading of Pratt’s essay in “Feminist Politics: What’s Home Got to Do with It?,” Martin’s return to her own home and family in the Introduction toFemininity Played Straight: The Significance of Being Lesbian, Shane Phelan’s revisiting of home and family in “Interlude I: Getting Specific” (1994)—all are part of a rich constellation of autobiographical essays that theorize the personal...

  9. SIX Contesting Communities
    (pp. 215-258)

    As I begin writing this chapter on a sunny day in June, San Francisco is hosting the twenty-seventh annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade. The theme for the parade is “One Community, Many Faces.” On the street, a celebrant was heard to say to an observer: “You don’t have to be part of the family to be in the community.” The title for the parade, the theme, and the casual comment encapsulate the successes and the tensions of nearly three decades of gay and lesbian politics and public life. On June 27, 1970, twenty to thirty people had...

    (pp. 259-264)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 265-268)
    (pp. 269-270)