Sor Juana: Or, The Traps of Faith
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thanks to everyone for dual language poetry! here's my first offering of Paz on the tracker, I think. not dual language.
trans Margaret Sayers Peden
Mexico's leading poet, essayist, and cultural critic writes of a Mexican poet of another time and another world, the world of seventeenth-century New Spain. His subject is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the most striking figure in all of Spanish-American colonial literature and one of the great poets of her age.
Her life reads like a novel. A spirited and precocious girl, one of six illegitimate children, is sent to live with relatives in the capital city. She becomes known for her beauty, wit, and amazing erudition, and is taken into the court as the Vicereine's protégée. For five years she enjoys the pleasures of life at court--then abruptly, at twenty, enters a convent for life. Yet, no recluse, she transforms the convent locutory into a literary and intellectual salon; she amasses an impressive library and collects scientific instruments, reads insatiably, composes poems, and corresponds with literati in Spain. To the consternation of the prelates of the Church, she persists in circulating her poems, redolent more of the court than the cloister. Her plays are performed, volumes of her poetry are published abroad, and her genius begins to be recognized throughout the Hispanic world. Suddenly she surrenders her books, forswears all literary pursuits, and signs in blood a renunciation of secular learning. The rest is silence. She dies two years later, at forty-six.
Octavio Paz has long been intrigued by the enigmas of Sor Juana's personality and career. Why did she become a nun? How could she renounce her lifelong passion for writing and learning? Such questions can be answered only in the context of the world in which she lived. Paz gives a masterly portrayal of the life and culture of New Spain and the political and ideological forces at work in that autocratic, theocratic, male-dominated society, in which the subjugation of women was absolute.
Just as Paz illuminates Sor Juana's life by placing it in its historical setting, so he situates her work in relation to the traditions that nurtured it. With critical authority he singles out the qualities that distinguish her work and mark her uniqueness as a poet. To Paz her writings, like her life, epitomize the struggle of the individual, and in particular the individual woman, for creative fulfillment and self-expression.
individual destinies. The court set an example for courtesy, mores, and styles; it governed the manner of loving and eating, of burying the dead s k e t c h o f N e w Spain The Dais and the Pidpit — and courting the living, of celebrating birthdays and mourning the de parted. “ The criterion that determines what events we must remember,” says Valéry in the prologue to Regards sur le monde actuel, “ is the one that measures changes in social codes.” These codes are none other than those of
aforementioned girls.” In his deposition, Diego Ruiz Lozano pledged payment for their food and lodging and, “ should the case arise,” three thousand pesos for each girl’s dowry. Neither of the two made her profession. But Juana Inés’ real relationship as a grown woman with Diego Ruiz Lozano is not necessarily consistent with the ambiguous feelings and images he must have inspired during her child hood. The contrast between the two images of virility, father and stepfather, can be expressed as
Juana Inés ~ ments, and ceremonies were held in the palace. Although we do not know whether her duties in the service of the Vicereine provided an opportunity to meet young noblemen, Calleja tells us that she was sur rounded by “ the refined aura of flattery.” He does not, of course, allude to any specific love affair, but it would be absurd to discount entirely flirtations and amorous play. Sor Juana’s personality, her happy nature, her taste for the world, the pleasure she received and gave in
with no false modesty, to praise her own inscriptions as well: if the lines, figures, and colors of the arch attract the “ eyes of the common people,” the inscriptions capture the “ attention of the wellinformed.” Among the principal attractions of the arch was the repre sentation of Neptune and his wife, Amphitrite, on the first and central canvas, naked and standing on a seashell pulled by two “ swimming monsters.” A revealing detail about Sor Juana, who was a master of the art of courtly
many praises, and in Book II of Legib. [Laws], in treating Egyptian music, said: Ferunt antiquissimos illos apud eos concentus Isidis esse poemata [They claim that the songs that have been preserved for such a long time were the compositions of Isis]. Thus Isis was a poet in addition to being the goddess of wisdom. After she portrays Neptune, Sor Juana compares him with Tomás de la Cerda. Although preposterous, the comparison is not without inge nuity: Neptune is the son of Saturn and Tomás de