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.
There were many challenges in the literary field for women writers in the eighteenth century. Unlike their male counterparts, woman writers faced a major struggle in maintaining their reputations as they matured.