Jane and Anna Maria Porter: the Most Famous Novelists You’ve Never Read

Mon. Mar 27, 2023 6:30pm - 7:30pm EDT
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They paved the way for Jane Austen and the Brontë Sisters. Why haven’t we ever heard of them?

Book Cover of Sister Novelists by Devoney LooserThis Women’s History Month, get to know the brilliant, self-made single women who were famous on both sides of the Atlantic and counted among their fans at least one queen and a president. Between them, Jane and Anna Maria Porter published 26 books, including a bestseller, and arguably invented the historical novel. Then history left them in the past. What happened and why is the subject of Devoney Looser’s new book, which recaptures the lost story of the pioneering Porter Sisters. Relying largely on their letters, which are collected at The New York Public Library, Looser’s literary detective work rescues the Porters from literary obscurity and pushes them back into prominence.

Looser discusses her trailblazing biography with author and critic, Ruth Franklin. Beanie Feldstein reads a selection of the sisters' inimitable correspondence.

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Beanie Feldstein headshotBeanie Feldstein will next be seen in Ethan Coen's untitled upcoming film alongside Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan. Most recently, she portrayed the iconic role of Fanny Brice in the first-ever Broadway revival of the musical Funny Girl. She previously starred as Monica Lewinsky in Ryan Murphy’s installment of his critically acclaimed series, American Crime Story.

In 2019, she was seen as the lead of Olivia Wilde’s critically acclaimed directorial debut Booksmart, which earned her a number of accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Beanie recently starred in Film4’s How to Build a Girl, and can be seen across Amy Schumer, Richard Jenkins, and Steven Yeun in the Scott Rudin-produced film adaptation of the Tony-winning play The Humans by Stephen Karam. In 2017, Beanie starred in Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated Ladybird alongside Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, and Timothée Chalamet. A true voice of her generation, Beanie is an outspoken activist for feminism, diversity, and family.

Ruth Franklin headshot, photograph by Anthony DelMundoRuth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. Her first biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography about and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Time magazine top nonfiction book of 2016, and a “best book of 2016” by The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and others. Franklin’s work appears in many publications, including The New YorkerThe New York Times Book ReviewThe New York Review of Books, and Harper’s. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at The New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her first book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Devoney Looser headshot © Arizona State UniversityDevoney Looser is Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University and the author or editor of nine books on literature by women, including The Making of Jane Austen. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Salon, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, and she's had the pleasure of talking about Austen on CNN. Looser, who has played roller derby as Stone Cold Jane Austen, is a Guggenheim Fellow and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two sons.



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In-Person | Assistive listening devices and/or hearing loops are available at the venue. You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation or CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) captioning service by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email accessibility@nypl.org or use this Gmail template. This venue is fully accessible to wheelchairs. 

Livestream | Captions and a transcript will be provided. Media used over the course of the conversation will be accompanied by alt text and/or audio description. You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email accessibility@nypl.org or use this Gmail template.



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Courtesy Beanie Feldstein
Ruth Franklin © Anthony DelMundo
Devoney Looser © Arizona State University

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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL), 7th Floor Event Center 455 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016