In Relation: Sisters and Sisterhood (Panel)


Women's and Gender Studies / Anglophone

Rita Bode (Trent University)

This panel seeks to build on and extend the scholarship on sister relationships in literature as presented in such critical works as Sarah Annes Brown’s Devoted Sisters: Representations of the Sister Relationship in Nineteenth-century British and American Literature (2003), among other studies. The focus of the panel is on literature of the Victorian period to the 1920s. The panel looks to position sisters and the sister relationship as central to the dynamics of their literary works, moving them from the margins to the center, and considering the ways in which a focus on the sister relationship derails and disrupts a narrative’s expected trajectories: the panel’s significance lies in attempting to explore and respond to questions such as, for instance, to what extent does the sister plot challenge or even displace the heterosexual trajectory of the traditional marriage plot? What cultural and social implications emerge when the sister relationship is interpreted as occupying a central position in a fiction’s dynamics? Other issues and topics to be considered may include but are not limited to: recognizable patterns of the sister plot and its disruptions; how rivalry, antagonism, competitiveness engage with care and intimacy; sisterly facilitations of social acceptance or social obstruction; “good” and “bad” sisters; parental relationships among sisters; sisterhood and class mobility; sisterhood as creative/destructive; sisterhood as facilitating and/or resisting the slippage into female stereotypes; sister-artists, among others. The panel is open to different perspectives and theoretical frameworks, but transnational and comparative perspectives and gender and psychoanalytic theoretical approaches are particularly welcome. Please direct queries and/or send abstracts of approximately 250-300 words and two-three sentence bios to rbode@trentu.ca


This panel extends the scholarship on sister relationships in the Victorian period to the 1920s. It positions sisters and the sister relationship as central to the dynamics of their literary works, moving them from the margins to the center, and considering the ways in which a focus on the sister relationship disrupts a narrative’s expected trajectories. Other topics might include: how rivalry, antagonism, and competitiveness engage with care and intimacy; sisterly facilitations of social acceptance or obstruction; “good” and “bad” sisters; sisterhood and class mobility; sisterhood as creative/destructive; sisterhood as facilitating and/or resisting the slippage into female stereotypes; and sister-artists.