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Approaches to Teaching the Works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (review)
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The present volume of essays successfully explains the diverse ideas and themes that characterized the Spanish authors of Generation X. Thus, thanks to the clarity of the ideas presented in Generation X Rocks, this text will serve as a useful tool in the study of late twentieth century Spanish literature. ABEL MUÑOZ-HERMOSO University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Bergmann, Emilie L., and Stacey Schlau. Approaches to Teaching the Works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2007. 312 pp. A literary phenom, best seller, and internationally admired, Sor Juana’s literary candle burned brightly in her lifetime. And although it has flickered over the past three centuries, it never went out. Interestingly, it is within the last thirty years that research and attention to this remarkable Mexican woman poet, prose writer and dramatist has generated more widespread interest and admiration than ever before. Today, and in addition to Latin American literature , disciplines such as theatre, religious studies, woman’s literature, and intellectual history have embraced Sor Juana due not only to the renaissance of scholarship but also owing to English translations of her works. Nevertheless, at this far remove, and considering her baroque cannon, Sor Juana’s literary production can prove problematic for today’s students and a challenge for those who teach it. Therefore, the Approaches to Teaching the Works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz volume is a timely and welcome addition to the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching World Literature series and should be of interest and benefit to teachers and students of Sor Juana and her literary writings. The book is divided into two major sections with each prefaced by an introduction . Part One considers materials (the audiovisual and electronic resources as well as available editions in Spanish and in English translations). Part Two, the major part of the book, provides general overviews, contextual background and approaches to teaching the seventeenth-century Sor Juana and her works to students of the twenty-first century. The volume’s coverage ranges from studies on Sor Juana’s poetry, prose, and theatre to music, food, and the visual (internet, portraits, and film). The second part is additionally divided into four sections. In “Backgrounds: Gender, Power, and Religion in Colonial Society,” eight essays somewhat general in nature are devoted to providing overviews and background; five studies in “Sor Juana as a Baroque Writer: A Colonial Latin American Woman’s Ways of Knowing” situate Sor Juana as an intellectual in the context and constraints of her historic and geographic realities; eight more studies in “Conventional Genres, Subversive GesRese ñas 95 tures” consider some of her specific and better known works; and finally, in “Teaching Sor Juana in the Twenty-First Century” are found six additional essays that are grounded in more recent fields (queer studies, food studies, applications of visual technology, and interdisciplinary exploration combining literature and musicology) and help to bridge the chasm between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. Anyone should be able to find a genre, literary composition or aspect of Sor Juana’s life that would be interesting for him or her to teach. Thus it is a useful text/tool for instructors who currently teach Sor Juana and her works as well as those who will want to do so after reading the collected articles. The beginners will find the wherewithal necessary to teach Sor Juana and the already initiated teacher will encounter new directions , materials, and ideas that will allow them to renew and broaden their efforts . Like all books with numerous contributors the “package” is a bit uneven. The reader will immediately notice, for example, the gender imbalance among the contributors. There are twenty-one contributions from women and only six from men. Consequently, and perhaps due in part to this imbalance, there is a decided emphasis placed on the feminist aspect of Sor Juana. A better balance would be preferable for a book that is intended to be used as a general tool of instruction. Also, some of the essays are more pedagogical in nature, others are theoretical and perhaps a few are agenda driven. Feminist scholars of the twenty...