Literary Self-Fashioning in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Literary Self-Fashioning in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Literary Self-Fashioning in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Literary Self-Fashioning in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Synopsis

"This book offers a close reading of selected poetic, dramatic, and prose works by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695). With thorough knowledge of theoretical debates about writing, subjectivity, and gender, Frederick Luciani elucidates ways in which this important colonial Mexican intellectual and literary figure created a textual self through her writing. Literary Self-Fashioning analyzes Sor Juana's complex, varied, and strategic process of literary self-fashioning, the self-promotional and self-protective functions it served, and its consequences for her readers and for subsequent generations. The book, likewise, situates its readings of Sor Juana's work against the background of the arc of her career - its ascent in the 1680s, its descent and disintegration in the 1690s." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

[Para alabar dignamente la elocuente sabiduría y dorada elocuencia
de esta Doctora mujer Juana Inés de la Cruz, otra Juana Inés de la Cruz
era necesario que hubiese, que fuese ella misma.]

[In order adequately to praise the eloquent wisdom and golden eloquence
of this scholarly woman Juana Inés de la Cruz, another Juana Inés de la Cruz,
equal to herself, would be necessary.]

—Fray Pedro del Santísimo Sacramento, prologue
to Segundo tomo de las obras de la Madre
Soror Juana Inés de la Cruz (Seville, 1692).

WHEN THE SPANISH FRIAR PEDRO DEL SANTíSIMO SACRAMENTO PENNED the accolade, which I offer as an epigraph above, to the Mexican literary nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648?–1695), he indulged a baroque delight in witty panegyric. By emphasizing Sor Juana's peerlessness, he also reflected a trend among her contemporary admirers to represent her in terms of a complicated interplay of [ones] and [twos.] She was the Mexican Phoenix, [sólo semejante a sí misma] [resembling only herself] in the words of another eulogist. According to yet another, she was a unique exception to the intellectual norm for her sex, superior even to those men who would aspire to marry her and thus destined to be a bride of Christ. At the same time, as an erudite woman Sor Juana was a paradoxical double, a combination of female passion and male reason, justly born—her panegyrists noted—between Mexico's volcanoes of fire (Popocateptl) and ice (Ixtacihuatl), prefigurations of the twin-peaked Parnassus to whose heights her literary accomplishments gave her rightful access. She was understood, in short, as both singular and a living antithesis.

Fray Pedro's gallant compliment may serve to remind us that there was, in fact, someone in the world adequate to the task of representing Sor Juana—and that person was, indeed, Sor Juana herself. Over the course of . . .

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