Posted by: | 27th Oct, 2008

La Respuesta de Sor Juana

I found Sor Juana to be one of our more challenging readings, but also one of the most enjoyable. The fact that the entire letter is a charade and her many tongue-in-cheek phrases made me smile. As I read I was comparing her rhetorical style with the other authors that we’ve read. The tendency to exaggerate reminded me of De las Casas, but whereas his hyperbolic language was used to emphasize the gravity of his subject, Sor Juana uses it to emphasize the absurdity of this exchange between herself and the bishop, such as when she refers to his “doctisima, discretisima, santisima y amorosisima carta.” There is so much irony in the letter, such as when her references to herself as lowly and simple contrast with the rhetorical sophistication and learned references she uses to write it. Cabeza de Vaca and De las Casas were only concerned with language insofar as Spanish ignorance of indigenous languages meant less successful survival in and governance of the Americas. Garcilaso de la Vega was more concerned with language itself, with the importance of the written word to the history of a people, and the importance of good translation between the indigenous languages and Spanish. Sor Juana, however, is the first author to really play with language, to explore its possibilities of saying one thing and meaning something entirely different.

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