Nov 30, 2022 • 43M

Live from Austen Con!

We did a cool Jane Austen thing, and here's the podcast - with author Devoney Looser talking about 'Sister Novelists', groundbreaking historic fiction, and Regency women writers breaking rules

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Hello friends,

Welcome to a special Austen Connection podcast episode - taped earlier this month, for a live-streamed event at the wonderful Austen Con 2022, an international weekend gathering of scholars, artists, and creators on Jane Austen topics, from Melbourne, Australia.

This was fun!

The annual Austen Con is produced by Sharmini Kumar and 24 Carrot Productions, from Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne and it’s also live-streamed.

It was wonderful to take part in this year’s Austen Con with our friend author Devoney Looser, to talk about her new book Sister Novelists: The trailblazing Porter sisters, who paved the way for Austen and the Brontes.

This double biography is the result of about 20 years of work by Looser, and uncovers the literary history of the fascinating Regency sister novelists Jane and Maria Porter. The Porter sisters wrote and left - not dozens, and not hundreds but, Looser says - thousands of letters. And it’s these descriptive, imaginative, intimate correspondences between the sisters and their friends and siblings that drew Looser into this fascinating story that provides a day-to-day immersion in the life of the Regency.

The sisters were also prolific novelists in the Regency era, selling more than a million copies of their books and publishing more than two dozen works, which made them celebrities of their day - a circle that Looser says Jane Austen was certainly aware of. And a colorful circle they were!

Their biographies really bring to life many of the most fascinating aspects of the Regency, right at the time that Jane Austen was living and writing.

And Devoney Looser has written a groundbreaking double biography of the Porter sisters with this new book.

‘Regency women writers breaking rules’: Devoney Looser is the author of ‘Sister Novelists’ pictured with the Austen Connection’s Janet Saidi, aka Plain Jane. Thanks to Jennyvi Dizon for capturing this moment from Austen Con 2022.

So - this special edition of the the Austen Connection podcast takes you right to Austen Con, in Melbourne Australia, where we taped the live event for this episode. You can listen to the episode by simply pressing Play, above, or you’ll find it at the Austen Connection podcast on Spotify or Apple., or wherever you get your podcasts. Enjoy!

Images from the conversation

Throughout this conversation, Devoney Looser referred to some visuals, including this one showing a hilarious inaccurate book cover that promotes ‘Sister Novelist’ Jane Porter as the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. We know differently, don’t we, readers?!

But the Porter sisters were writing at the same time Austen was writing, and beyond, and their name recognition far surpassed anything Austen was able to achieve during her lifetime. And here are portraits of the Porter sisters - Jane Porter, left, was known as a beauty but Devoney Looser writes in Sister Novelists that Jane Porter enjoyed wearing dark clothes, veils, and other garments that concealed her appearance - which gives her something like an early goth vibe and we’re here for it!

Here’s the one with the sisters and their Byronic celebrity-artist older brother, Robert, who as Devoney Looser describes married a Russian “horror princess.”

And here are some pics of the sisters with their dueling influencers: the fastidious and upright Mrs. Crespigny and the prolific writer and actor, and also notorious courtesan, Mary Robinson, whose reputation we should probably be rehabilitating, and whom the Porter sisters seemed to truly love.

Thank you for joining us for this edition of the Austen Connection - from Austen Con 2022.

Have you read Sister Novelists yet? Do you have a favorite book that shows the real life of the Regency era, like this one? Let us know your recommendations and thoughts!

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Watch for more upcoming episodes from the Austen Connection, and more posts connecting Jane Austen to so many, many things - here at the Austen Connection as the season rolls out, we’ll be bearing gifts that will drop in your inbox if you’re a subscriber, and if not why not?! Join our community, here.

Links and more reading

  • Here’s where you can find out more about Austen Con 2022 - and special thank-you to Sharmini Kumar and Tech producer Tad Errey for help with this production/podcast episode

  • Here’s where you can find Sister Novelists, and here’s where you can follow Devoney Looser and sign up for her newsletter Counterpoise - about strong women, we’re here for it!

  • Here’s a biography of Mary Robinson by Janeite author and scholar Paula Byrne

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