The Other Mexican Muse. Sor María Anna ÁGueda De San Ignacio (1695-1756)

Article excerpt

Latin America The Other Mexican Muse. Sor María Anna Águeda de San Ignacio (1695-1756). By Jennifer Eich. [Latin American Studies, 13.] (New Orleans: University Press of the South. 2004. Pp. x, 294. Paperback.)

Sor María Anna Águeda de San Ignacio (1695-1756) is one of the most important unsung women writers of Mexico's colonial past. Born the year Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz died, the Dominican wrote prolifically and shared Sor Juana's uniqueness of being a colonial woman writer published during her lifetime. Her writings include constitutions for her convent, spiritual guidebooks for nuns, and four mystical theological treatises. Yet, despite her popularity in life and an early approval of the orthodoxy of her writings, Sor María Anna quickly disappeared from Latin American literary history. Jennifer Eich's carefully researched and well-written The Other Mexican Muse is the first booklength critical study of this important colonial writer.

Eich employs a sound gender-based analysis of Sor María Anna's life and writings. She begins with a brief biography, then dedicates one chapter each to four aspects of Sor María Anna's writing: her narrative self-authorization, the relationship she develops with her audience, her textualization of mystic experience, and her response to social laxity in her spiritual decalogue for nuns.

Eich's analysis reveals an admirable command of Spanish and colonial religious literature, which required painstaking work to locate and study a number of rare published and manuscript sources. She excels at persuasive close readings in which she considers the narrative and rhetorical strategies employed by Sor María Anna and her biographers to negotiate the complex social implications of creating a female religious subject in the eighteenth century. Eich also contextualizes her work on Sor María Anna, particularly her discussion of narrative authorization, with a wealth of knowledge from the past two decades of scholarship on female religious writings in the early modern Hispanic world. …