Two classroom lessons on ‘The First Great Latin American Poet’, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, are available on EDSITEment! We saw Sor Juana at the center of Lorraine’s post earlier this week, and we were introduced to a young girl whose vivacious, voracious and eager appetite for knowledge and learning set her apart in the colonial period in which she was born. As a college student who often studies topics in Mexican history, I cannot emphasize enough how central a figure Sor Juana is, both historically and in the construction of Mexican National Identity. Sor Juana’s life work speaks to the infinite complexity of the colonial period, a period we normally reduce to one of unabated suppression over minority and marginalized voices. However, the more we study our colonial past, the more we realize that political and social agency (or power) did in fact exist within many marginalized communities and individuals. As students living in the modern age, we may be surprised to see Sor Juana’s audaciousness and ability to carve out a place of academic autonomy for women in what is often thought of as the most restricting institution of all: the Church. However, we can also think of Sor Juana as an artist, a genius, a mentor and a spirit dedicated to the betterment of her community, regardless of time period, religion or gender. Needless to say, which ever way you decide to understand Sor Juana and her life’s work, it is difficult to ignore her remarkable and outstanding story.
In the lesson, “Sor Juana, the Nun and Writer”, we are treated to one of the great episodes of Sor Juana’s life story and work. After being attacked by a Bishop on the grounds of her intellectual pursuits, Sor Juana wrote a famous Reply, or ‘Respuesta’, in which she articulately defended her right to read books, write, conduct science experiments, and have the freedom to acquire knowledge.
In Activity 3, students can actively participate in the writing and reading of the Reply in this incredibly prepared selection of segments from Sor Juana’s most famous letter. The students will be asked to think about the circumstances surrounding Sor Juana’s life when she wrote this letter and to discuss what the fragment or fragments are communicating.
I hope you enjoy delving into the powerful and eloquent words of Sor Juana!! Have a great weekend everyone!
Image: Painting by Mauricio Garcia Vega taken from Wikimedia Commons user Thelmadatter.