Jane Rule & Rick Bébout, Private Letters/Public Lives: A Queer Love Story


Jane Rule and Rick Bébout wrote each other from 1981until Rule died in November 2007. Begun as a professional correspondence, the letters quickly became personal. This essay considers letters written between 1981 and 1995 and argues that they represent a hybrid genre: private letters between public people written for multiple audiences, they are a form of life-writing. The letters provide an archive that complicates narratives of gay and lesbian identities and communities in the last decades of the twentieth-century. A rhetoric of political debate and opposition to mainstream culture is offset by a rhetoric of confession and exploration. The letters contest reductive narratives of gay and lesbian life and work and restore ambiguities, contradictions and the unexpected to our understanding of gay and lesbian history. The form as well as the content of these letters provide a way to rethink identity, community, the public and the private, and queer historiography.

This article “Jane Rule & Rick Bébout, Private Letters/Public Lives: A Queer Love Story” originally appeared in Queerly Canadian. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 205 (Summer 2010): 108-120.

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