Kristín I. Pálsdóttir: Sor Juana defends herself: A poet, scholar and feminist in the 17th century
The aim of the article is to introduce Icelandic readers to Juana Ramírez de Asbaje (or Asuaje), known under her religious name, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. She was a writer, philosopher, scientist, nun and feminist and made a unique contribution to Western literature and feminist history with her letter The Answer to Sor Filotea de la Cruz.
Sor Juana was born in the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1641 (or 1648) and was of Spanish descent. She is possibly the most important writer of the colonial
period in Mexico. Since education was not available to women at that time she was largely self-educated. She wrote poetry and plays, both religious and secular and belonged to the baroque period. Sor Juana entered a convent around the age of 20, not because of a religious calling but because it was the only place where she could hope to be able to continue her intellectual work.
Sor Juana’s superiors were offended both by her secular writings and by her criticism of a sermon by Antonio Viera. When openly scolded by the bishop of Puebla, hiding behind the nun’s name Sor Philotea de la Cruz, who criticized her for her intervention in theological debate, she answered with The Answer to Sor Filotea which is a fundamental work in Western feminism and is known as a declaration of the intellectual emancipation of women of the Americas.
Keywords: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Baroque, feminism, colonial Mexico, literature, Spain, 17th Century