Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

In world literature, we went over the Reply to Sor Filotea, which I was incredibly surprised to note that so many students had actually enjoyed! I thought it would be a “meh” reading, but it seemed to strike a note. In future classes, I’d like to be able to spend more time on it, and perhaps at the end of this term we’ll be able to return to it and a few other readings. Two students presented on it, one of whom is distantly related to de la Cruz, so that was exciting. Those presentations inspired much less discussion than others, though.

We didn’t have enough time to do justice to the piece, but I did go over the basic intellectual and cultural context of the Reply–Counter-Reformation, Enlightenment ideology, the social role of education, and of course proto-feminism, in addition to the historical controversy of its publication and reception. The following period, however, we returned to the Reply, and particularly went over a few passages central to the text’s meaning–especially the passages where Sor Juana argues for her right, even obligation, to study the secular sciences. As I was reading one moment aloud, the moment where she describes the philosophy of the kitchen, I was astonished to find myself tearing up…. These passages also allowed us to think about her implicit critique of the Archbishop of Mexico, as well, crossdressed in letters as the upright Sor Filotea. Good stuff.

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