Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a novel about the tribulations of two loving but very unalike sisters, ends on the happy note that “…though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.” Austen humorously addresses the reality of sisterhood—that any kind of sisterly accord or unity is not a foregone conclusion. For Devoney Looser, Professor of English and scholar of 18th-century women’s literature, the concept of “sisterhood” (figuratively and literally) in authorship is a complex exchange with positive and negative aspects. In fact, the “messiness” of women’s literary history is crucial to many aspects of her scholarship and teaching.
Popularity of women writers in the eighteenth century came and went, and many who were popular in their time are unknown to us today. Jane Austen’s popularity has had a particularly cyclical pattern; she has been celebrated and re-imagined by a wide variety of readers.