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SEEING BEAUTY WITHIN TORMENT SOR JUANA INÉS DE LA CRUZ AND THE BAROQUE IN NEW SPAIN Very few women’s voices emerge in the history books and theological texts of colonial Latin America. Many, in fact, would argue that there are few substantial figures in this region whose impact is significant beyond their local context. Latin America has historically been set apart from the remainder of the New World and, as a consequence, all of Europe. As Octavio Paz writes in his monumental work on the life, work, and culture of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Our history, from the perspective of modern Western history, has been ex-centric. We have no age of critical philosophy, no bourgeois revolution , no political democracy: no Kant, no Robespierre, no Hume, no Jefferson.”1 The difference of Latin America’s history has been historically judged as lower or less than the AngloEuropean dominant group. Since we seemingly have no Kant or Jefferson, we are seen as having nothing to contribute to other cultures and nations intellectually. Paz does not find the equivalent of the traditional philosophical greats in the Spanish New World. I disagree. I maintain that we can find in Latin America our Kants and Jeffersons. Due to the marginalization of Latin American culture, history, and scholarship, these voices have been ignored and invalidated. As George Tavard notes in his work Juana Inés de la Cruz and the Theology of Beauty: The First Mexican Theology: C H A P T E R 1 michelle a. gonzález 01-T1918-P1 11/19/2001 11:07 AM Page 3 Well known in her native Mexico and in the generality of the Spanishspeaking world, Juana Inés de la Cruz has remained largely unknown to the educated public of English-speaking North America, in spite of the fact that good scholarly investigations of her life and works have been done in the United States . . . Undoubtedly, the disregard of a major literary figure from South of the Rio Grande proceeds in part from the traditional indifference of the English-speaking populations of North America to speakers of the Spanish language.2 Granted, these intellectuals and scholars appear in different guises than their European and North American counterparts. Since they do not carry the prestige and weight of European history behind them, and they are seemingly insignificant, or solely significant on a highly contextualized level. Their impact resonates in less obvious ways. It is my contention that Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a seventeenthcentury nun from New Spain,3 is such a figure. Her writings may not have aided in the founding of a nation, but her voice speaks of the birth of a people. A study of her writings reveals not only a substantial source of creative philosophical and theological thought but also a vital historical resource for feminist scholarship.4 The very act of “un-covering”5 this resource is an empowering act for Latina Americans, whose contributions are often overlooked in the pages of mainstream history. Therefore, to retrieve Sor Juana’s voice is to recognize the omission of Latinas as an androcentric and ethnocentric oversight. The primary purpose of this study is the introduction of Sor Juana’s writings as a vital resource to U.S. Latina/o theology, feminist theology (both Latino/a and non-Latino/a), and the larger theological community. Through her life and work Sor Juana confronts assumptions that Latina Americans do not have an intellectual history, specifically in the fields of theology and philosophy. This study will be threefold, beginning with a brief examination of the Baroque in New Spain. Second, I will provide a biographical sketch of Sor Juana’s life, followed, third, by some initial explorations into the theology of Sor Juana. I will conclude with a preliminary examination of Sor Juana’s work in dialogue with contemporary Latina/o theology, offering some horizons for future study. Building on the methodological insights of Latina theology, theological scholarship on Sor Juana exhibits a subversive hermeneutic that challenges the androcentric Western philosophical and theologi4 SOURCES, THOUGHT, AND PRAXIS OF LATINA FEMINIST INSIGHT 01-T1918-P1 11/19/2001 11:07 AM Page 4 cal tradition through the very form and content of her work. In a similar vein, Sor Juana offers us a window through which to explore a colonial feminist in the Americas.6 Without imposing contemporary categories upon a seventeenth-century figure, we shall see...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292796546
Related ISBN
9780292705098
MARC Record
OCLC
182530882
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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