Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover.
|Published (Last):||11 January 2006|
|PDF File Size:||11.85 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||3.67 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
It was most unusual that a Mexican nun should dare to criticize with as much rigor as intellectual boldness the celebrated confessor of Christina of Sweden. But if her criticism of Vieyra produced astonishment, her singular opinion of divine favors must have perturbed even those who admired her. The bishop of Puebla did not conceal his disagreement. It is a pity that so great an understanding lower itself in such a way by unworthy notice of the Earth that it have not desire to penetrate what transpires in Heaven and, since it be already lowered to the ground, that it not descend farther, to consider what transpires in Hell.
The theological discussion passed to a second plane. It is a singular document, unique in the literature of her epoch. Two years later, she sold her books and abandoned herself to the powers of silence. Ripe for death, she did not escape the epidemic of I fear that it may not be possible to understand what her work and her life tell us unless first we understand the meaning of this renunciation of the word.
Catholicism arrived in Mexico as a centuries-old religion with a subtle and complex philosophy that left no door open to the ardors of investigation or the doubts of speculation. In all the other orders of the culture, the situation was similar: There was nothing to invent, nothing to add, nothing to propose. Scarcely born, New Spain was an opulent flower condemned to a premature and static maturity. Sor Juana embodies this maturity. She never transcended the style of her epoch.
It was not possible for her to break those forms that imprisoned her so subtly and within which she moved with such elegance: To have destroyed them would have been to repudiate her own being. The conflict was insoluble because her one escape would have demanded the destruction of the very foundations of the colonial world. As it was not possible to deny the principles on which that society rested without repudiating oneself, it was also impossible to propose others. Neither the tradition nor the history of New Spain could propose alternative solutions.
It is true that two centuries later other principles were adopted, but one must remember that they came from outside--from the United States and France--and would form a different society. At the end of the 17th century, the colonial world lost any possibility of renewing itself: The same principles that had engendered it were now choking it.
Denying this world and affirming another were acts that could not have the same significance for Sor Juana that they had for the great spirits of the Counter Reformation or the evangelists of New Spain.
For Saint Teresa and Saint Ignatius, renunciation of this world did not signify resignation or silence. Militant Catholicism, evangelical or reformist, impregnated history with meaning and the negation of the world was translated finally into an affirmation of historical action. This new kind of knowledge was impossible within the tenets of her historical universe. For more than 20 years, Sor Juana adhered to her purpose.
And she did not yield until all doors were definitely closed. When history awakened her from her dream at the end of her life, she ceased to speak. Her awakening closed the golden dream of the viceroyship. Understanding her silence.
Ambiguous glories. Everything in her--vocation, soul, body--was ambivalent. When she was still a child, her family sent her to Mexico City to live with relatives. Through the biography by Father P. Diego Calleja, we are able to hear echoes of the celebrations and competitions in which Juana, the young prodigy, shone. Beautiful and alone, she was not without suitors.
But in her situation, poor and without a known father, marriage was difficult. Had she been legitimate, would she have chosen married life? This possibility is, at the least, dubious. When Sor Juana speaks of her intellectual vocation, she seems sincere; neither the absence of worldly love nor the urgency of divine love led her to the cloister.
The convent was an expedient, a reasonable solution, offering refuge and solitude. Laboratory, library, salon--there, she received visitors and conversed with them. Poems were read; discussions were held; good music, heard. Sor Juana participated from the convent in both intellectual and court life.
She was constantly writing poetry. She wrote plays, Christmas carols, prologues, a treatise on music. Between the viceregal palace and the convent flowed a constant exchange of civilities, compliments, satirical poems and petitions. Indulged child, the Tenth Muse. Love is one of the constant themes in her poetry. Scholars say that she loved and was loved.
Her eroticism is intellectual; by that I do not mean that it is lacking either profundity or authenticity. Like all great lovers, Sor Juana delights in the dialectic of passion.
She feels that her body is like a sexless flame. The question is a burning one. No less ambiguous is her attitude toward the two sexes. The men of her sonnets and liras are fleeting shadows exemplifying absence and disdain. On the other hand, her portraits of women are splendid, notably those of her friend, the Condesa de Paredes, Vicereine of Mexico. This passion should not scandalize. The same rationale appears in almost all her amorous poems--and also the poems that treat the friendship that she professes for Phyllis or Lysis.
Her loves, real or imagined, were without doubt chaste. She loved the body with her soul, but who can trace the boundaries between one and the other? For us, body and soul are one, or almost so. Sor Juana lived in a world based on dualism, and for her, the problem was easier to resolve, as much in the sphere of ideas as in that of conduct. Sor Juana moved among shadows: those of untouchable bodies and fleeting souls.
And divine love? Sor Juana is not a mystic poet, and in her religious poems, the divinity is an abstraction. God is idea and concept; divine love is rational love. These were not her great love. From the time of her childhood, she was inclined toward learning. As an adolescent, she conceived the project of dressing as a man and attending the university. Resigned to being self-taught, she complained. But her curiosity is not that of the specialist; she aspires to the integration of individual truths and insists upon the unity of learning.
Her interest in science is impressive. Everything blends together: theology, science, baroque rhetoric and true astonishment before the universe.
Her attitude is rare in the Hispanic tradition. For the great Spaniards, learning resolved either into heroic action or negation of the world positive negation, to state it differently.
For Sor Juana, the world is a problem. For her, everything stimulates questions; her whole being is one excited question. The universe is a vast labyrinth within which the soul can find no unraveling thread. Nothing is further removed from this rational puzzle than the image of the world left us by the Spanish classics.
There, science and action are blended. To learn is to act, and all action, like all learning, is related to the world beyond. Within this tradition, disinterested learning is blasphemy or madness. The church did not judge Sor Juana mad or blasphemous, but it did lament her deviation. Her confessor tightened the ring and for two years denied her spiritual assistance. It was difficult to resist so much opposing pressure, as before it had been difficult not to be disoriented by the adulation of the court.
Sor Juana persisted. Using the texts of the church fathers as support, she defended her right--and that of all women--to knowledge.
Versatile, attracted by a thousand things at once, she defended herself by studying, and studying, she retreated. If her superiors took away her books, she still had her mind, which consumed more matter in a quarter of an hour than books in four years. Dreaming is knowing. In addition to diurnal learning, arises another, necessarily rebellious form of learning, beyond the law and subject to a punishment that stimulates the spirit more than it terrorizes it.
I dreamed that once and for all I desired to understand all the things that comprise the universe: I could not, not even as they are divided into categories, not even an individual one.
The dawn came and, disillusioned, I awoke. There is nothing behind the images of the Spanish poet because his world is pure image, a splendor of appearances. This distinguishes it from Gongoristic poetry and, more finally, from all baroque poetry. This very quality binds it, unexpectedly, to the poetry of our own time. In some passages, the baroque verse resists the unusual exercise of transcribing concepts and abstract formulas into images. The language becomes abrupt and pedantic. In other lines, the best and most intense expression becomes dizzying in its lucidity.
Brescia Pablo A. University of California, Santa Barbara. La historia oficial. Veamos, por ejemplo, las posiciones de tres especialistas que se han ocupado de sus avatares.
La carta atenagórica de Sor Juana: Textos inéditos de una polémica