Sor Juana Ines De la Cruz: Religion, Art, and Feminism

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Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz: Religion, Art, and Feminism. By Pamela Kirk. New York: Continuum, 1998. 180 pp. $34.50 (cloth).

In Sor Juana Inms de la Cruz, Pamela Kirk interprets the work of the famous Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (+1695) from a feminist perspective for three groups: literary scholars, theologians and a lay audience. To do so, Kirk exegetes excerpts from the nun's prose, poetry and plays. Kirk considers both the literary form as well as the theological content, thus elegantly providing the reader with a well-balanced analysis of works which do not fit into precise categories. In addition, she takes her analysis a step further by linking Sor Juana's historical context to her writings. This contextualization deepens the reader's understanding of the works by clarifying what might otherwise be obscure references to Aztec mythology, conflicts between Spanish and indigenous cultures, and the baroque politics of the Catholic church in New Spain. Finally, Kirk demonstrates the way in which Sor Juana anticipated many contemporary feminist issues such as the critique of patriarchy, the struggle for equality between men and women, and women's authority to teach on theological matters. Kirk's work is a fine example of historical theology and seamlessly presents the intersections between the institutions of Church and State, creativity, gender and society.

Chapters one through seven provide the reader with historical and biographical background and present interpretations of some of Sor Juana's works. Throughout these chapters, Kirk strives to demonstrate Sor Juana's awareness of the moral ambiguity of the parallel movements of Spanish evangelization and conquest of the New World. …