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Library Catalog No. JUA1691

Excerpt from Respuesta de la Poetisa a la Muy Ilustre Sor Filotea de la Cruz. Issued at Mexico City, on 1 March 1691. (The English translation in col. 2 is from Margaret Sayers Peden’s A Woman of Genius: The Intellectual Autobiography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz [Salisbury, CT: Lime Rock Press, 1982].)

by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (aka Juana Ramírez de Asbaje)

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First Issued:  March 2004
Reissued:  21 August 2012
Revised (substantive):  n/a

Part I: Editor’s Commentary on Sor Juana’s Text

decorative initial ABILINGUAL transcription of the “filosofías de cocina” (philosophies of the kitchen) passage from Sor Juana’s Respuesta de la Poetisa a la Muy Ilustre Sor Filotea de la Cruz [Response to the Most Illustrious Poetess Soy Filotea de la Cruz] is provided here in HTML format.

Sor Juana’s Respuesta was written in answer to a surprise letter of admonishment from Sor Philothea de la Cruz (Lover of God), a psuedonym for the Bishop of Puebla, Don Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz y Sahagún. In 1690, Santa Cruz had published a theological disputation written by Sor Juana, in which she boldly took issue with a Maundy Thursday sermon delivered in the 1640s by the distinguished Portuguese Jesuit, Antonio de Vieira (1608–1697). Vieira’s well-regarded sermon had by then been translated into Spanish and printed several times. Having been quite impressed by Sor Juana’s extemporaneous oral arguments, the Bishop of Puebla asked her to put it all in writing and send it to him, which she did, in the form of a letter. Unbeknownst to her, Santa Cruz arranged to have her Critique of a Sermon published under the title of Carta Atenagórica [Letter Worthy of Athena], then sent her a printed copy of it, along with the admonishing letter. Greatly disturbed by the Bishop’s criticisms, Sor Juana drafted her brilliant Respuesta, postmarked “Méjico, a primero día del mes de marzo de mil seiscientos y noventa y un años” (Mexico City, the first day of the month of March of sixteen hundred and ninety-one).

Sor Juana’s Respuesta is a searingly eloquent account of her own unrelenting passion for studying the arts and sciences — what Kircher had proclaimed as ars magna sciendi [the great art of knowledge] — as well as a defense of women’s — from all our “daughters” to “our aged women” — scholarship in general.

Without question, Sor Juana’s own accomplishments on this front were remarkable. By age 3, she had learned to read in secret. At around age 6 or 7, she pleaded with her mother to “dress me in boy’s clothing and send me to Mexico City” because she had heard that “in Mexico City there were Schools, and a University, in which one studied the sciences.” At age 8, she did in fact move to Mexico City, and immediately embarked on a self-directed course of study wherein she learned Latin in “no more than twenty lessons.” At age 16, the beautiful and captivating Juana Ramírez de Asbaje, a girl from the simple village of San Miguel de Nepantla (nestled in the shadows of the famous volcanos Popocateptl and Ixtacihuatl), was publicly examined by 40 of the most learned men in New Spain — including theologians, philosophers, mathematicians, historians, poets, and humanists — and before a delighted royal court, elegantly dispensed with them all. (As described by the former Viceroy of Mexico, His Excellency the Marquéz de Mancera, who had convened the learned body: “in the manner that a royal galleon might fend off the attacks of small canoes, so did Juana extricate herself from the questions, arguments, and objections these many men, each in his speciality, directed to her.”) At age 19, Juana entered the convent of the Discalced Carmelites in Mexico City, an austere order from which she departed three months later. In 1669, Juana signed her profession of faith in the Convent of Saint Jerome in Mexico City (the more compatible Hieronymite Order), assuming the new identity of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “la unica poetisa americana, musa dezima” (the singular American woman poet, the Tenth Muse) as she was branded on the title page of her published book of Poemas ... en varios metros, idiomas, y estilos .... Juana would remain as “religiosa professa en el Monasterio de San Geronimo de la Imperial Ciudad de Mexico” until her death in 1695.

Sor Juana’s controversial Response was not published until after her death, although it obviously circulated in manuscript before that, as did so many texts back then. After being transported to Spain, La Respuesta was first printed in volume 3 of Sor Juana’s works, Fama, y Obras Posthumas del Fenix de Mexico, Dezima Musa, Poetisa Americana, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Religiosa Professa en el Convento de San Geronimo de la Imperial Ciudad de Mexico [Fame and Posthumous Works of the Phoenix of Mexico, the Tenth Muse, Poetess of America ...], Madrid: Impr. de M. Ruiz de Murga, 1700.

The Spanish-language text given here of Sor Juana’s “filosofías de cocina” is from volume 4 of Alberto Salceda’s modern edition of the Obras completas de Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Mexico and Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1957).

The English-language translation of the Respuesta passage is from Margaret Sayers Peden’s A Woman of Genius: The Intellectual Autobiography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Salisbury, CT: Lime Rock Press, 1982). An alternative English-language translation of the complete Respuesta, along with a translation of the letter of admonishment from the ventriloquizing Bishop of Puebla, is given in Alan S. Trueblood’s A Sor Juana Anthology (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1988). Both books are highly recommended.

Tail-piece from William Cuningham's _The Cosmographical Glasse_ (London, 1559)

NOTE: The digital edition of Sor Juana’s text (in Part II) has not yet been updated. It retains the original format and styling of an earlier reissue of the HTML monograph in September 2009. To learn more about 2012 changes to e-publication formats, visit She-philosopher.com’s “A Note on Site Design” page.

Part II: digital edn. of Library Cat. No. JUA1691 pointer

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