Celebrated in her own time as the “Tenth Muse” and, in the 20th century, as “first feminist” of the Americas, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (b. 1648–d. 1695) was a brilliant poet, nun, and self-taught intellectual. Generations of Mexican schoolchildren have memorized her satirical ballad “Hombres necios que acusáis/a la mujer sin razón . . .” (You foolish men who cast all blame on women), and her portrait appears on the 200-peso note. And yet, despite her current status as an icon of Mexican culture, the first edition of her complete works was not published until 1951, three centuries after her birth. While some scholars attribute the centuries of neglect to the rejection of baroque literary style, it was not until the second wave of feminism in the 1970s that her writing began to receive rigorous scholarly attention. Because there is so little documentation of the poet’s life, and Sor Juana scholarship began in earnest only in the past half-century, debates continue regarding her biography, not always resolved by discoveries of new documents in the 20th century. It is impossible to establish a chronology for most of Sor Juana’s works, except those written for specific occasions, such as the Neptuno alegórico (1680), the villancicos (song sets for religious festivals), and the polemical Respuesta a sor Filotea (1691), a rhetorical tour de force in defense of her pursuit of knowledge and of the education of women. Other major works are her long philosophical poem, Primero sueño (First Dream, c. 1685); her love poetry and satirical verse; and the Loa (introduction) to the auto sacramental (allegorical religious play) El divino Narciso (1690) dramatizing the violence of the Spanish conquest and religious conversion of the indigenous population of Mexico. Sor Juana’s works are available online in scanned first editions and digitized texts.
Article. 13788 words.
Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
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