CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Gender, Image, and Sound in Letter to Jane

Siwei Zhou, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Humanities

Dept/Program: Cinema Studies

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Karen Beckman

Date of this Version: 20 May 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.



Letter to Jane (1972), a 52-minute essay in the form of a film centered on a single photograph, has been criticized to be a statement of the male dominance over the female figure. This paper evaluates this critique by analyzing the interactions of gender with image and sound throughout the film based on three prominent theories. Through Laura Mulvey’s theory of “the gaze” we find that Letter to Jane presents an active female character and passive male figures, contrary to the traditional gender roles that Mulvey argues are present in Hollywood cinema. Based on Mary Ann Doane’s theory of the voice-over commentary we understand that the presence of the two male narrators in the film takes away the authority and dominance of the masculine voice. It can be realized that Letter to Jane uses Bertolt Brecht’s “alienation effect”, which creates a distance between the events and the spectators of the film. From these three theories, it can be concluded that Letter to Jane asks the audience to consciously make an evaluation of the gender roles rather than accept the traditional dominant male figure and passive female figure.

Suggested Citation

Zhou, Siwei, "Gender, Image, and Sound in Letter to Jane" 20 May 2008. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 16 September 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.




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