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136BOOK REVIEWS The Mystic ofTunja. The Writings ofMadre Castillo, 1671-1742. By Kathryn Joy McKnight. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1997. Pp. xix, 282. $45.00.) In The Mystic ofTunja Kathryn McKnight embarks on a thorough analysis of the writings of the only Latin American colonial woman except for Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to be regularly anthologized, FranciscaJosefa de la Concepción or Madre Castillo (1671-1742). Born into a family of the local governing elite, Madre Castillo entered the Poor Clares in 1689 and held a variety of offices, including novice mistress and abbess (three terms). Family played a great role in the convent itself. Madre Castillo was descended from one of the founding nuns, and when she entered one of her aunts was already a nun in the convent. During her lifetime eight of her nieces and two of her sisters (as widows) entered the convent, and this in a period when the number of professed nuns averages about thirty. In spite of enforced enclosure she was able to exert influence beyond the convent, not only through her family but through more than ten confessors, and through her contacts with the convent's financial representatives . Inner-conventual squabbling features as part of the trials Madre Castillo undergoes, and a consistent refrain in her vida is her criticism of enemies and tormenters within the convent who are against her because of her attempts to institute a stricter order. Madre Castillo is not the engaging personality that was Teresa ofAvila. In addition to her spiritual autobiography she wrote two collections of spiritual writings, one entitled Sentimentos espirituales, the other Affectos espirituales . Again in contrast to Teresa ofAvila she is less interested in the inner path of mysticism than in the production of exterior signs of mysticism in both the body and text of the mystic. She also is more interested than Teresa in the relationship of the intellect to mysticism as is demonstrated by a number of her short pieces which are clearly of didactic or catechetical intent. In this outstanding contribution to the ongoing effort to explore the history ofLatin American women writers, McKnight begins with a careful setting ofthe parameters of her own discourse which is feminist and deconstructionist, providing a wealth of information which serves to build the methodological frame of her analysis, and including a brief history of the development of the genre of the vida espiritual in Spain and Latin America. As she combines research from the convent archives with Mother Castillo's own autobiographical writings, McKnight gives a fascinating demonstration of the tension between the subjective , partial rendering of spiritual autobiography which operates in the landscape of interior goals, strivings, disappointments, advances, and retreats with minimal reference to outside events, and the material evidence culled from municipal and convent archives, which however are not without their own subjective bias. As background for her study of Madre Castillo's writings McKnight develops a "representative"—though not "exhaustive—view of the state of critical scholarship" on the tradition and strategies ofwomen's writing in Spain and Spanish America. She also paints a vivid picture of the complexities of convent BOOK REVIEWS137 life in the early eighteenth century. McKnight has done an admirable job of illuminating the intricacies of women's writing while simultaneously introducing the reader to a complex and vital personality in Madre Castillo. Pamela Kirk St. John's University, New York Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 16971 768. By Harry W Crosby. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1994. Pp. xvii, 556. $37.50.) Harry Crosby has written an intriguing and useful history of the Spanish development of Baja California (California Antigua) during the Jesuit period. Although at times he seems captured by an older narrative style of history, the compensating consideration of structural and social history makes this a very rewarding read. The book results from more than thirty years ofresearch on the topic and the utilization of an enormous array of archival and printed sources. Obviously, he relies heavily on traditional materials: Jesuit chronicles, as well as the reports, letters, and inventories found in the Mexican national archives, but he has gone farther afield to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 136-137
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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