Sor Juana and Women’s Studies In The New World

By Joy Lynn Clark

When reading about Sor (Sister) Juana Del La Cruz’s life it is clear that she was interested in scholarly work at an early age.  In addition, much of Sor Juana’s writing includes references to women in literature and history.  In my opinion, Sor Juana De La Cruz is one of the earliest scholars of Women’s studies in the New World.

In, “La Respuesta”, Sor Juana mentions that she wants education through, ” . . . Letters and private study.”  I believe that Sor Juana’s primary interest was to work as an academic which, she could only achieve as a nun.  In the era of New Spain, the only alternative to marriage is the church.  Sor Juana makes it very clear that she has no interest in marriage and wants to study so she can be, “less ignorant”.

Additionally, Sor Juana notes that she has studied the writings of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Gertrude, and St. Paula.  It is clever that Sor Juana mentions that her work is more like that of St. Jerome, eluding to St. Paula’s work (  In, First I Dream, ​Sor Juana writes, “. . . three, Diana’s faces that show her beauteous being in three phases, but conquered only by air” (lines 14-17).  In my opinion, Sor Juana is eluding to the factthat the female saints she has studied had important scholarly work but were unable to sign their writings.  Sor Juana had the priviledge to study their letters within the church.  In lines 47-33, “These three of whom I speak, diligent audacious Sisters, as dreadful punishment with dark membranous pinions were aggrieved wings monstrously conceived, a mockery, but also piteous”.

Joy Clark is a writer, producer, vocalist, and publisher. Lexington, KY

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