GoodReads Review of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s “La Repuesta/The Answer”

Answer / La Respuesta: Including Sor Filotea's Letter & New Selected= Answer / La Respuesta: Including Sor Filotea’s Letter & New Selected Poems: Expanded Edition by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Espíritu Indómito

Only a century ago the gentler sex was encouraged to lead more simple and elegant lives free from study and occupation where they were expected to devote themselves to beauty, grace, family, and home. In seventeenth century New Spain, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz sought enlightenment through the convent, where she taught herself to read, write, and reason. Though frowned upon by the Catholic Church, which was, ironically, her artistic and intellectual refuge, with the keen observations of a skilled scientist, she dared to invoke the power of past influential women including Abigail, Esther, Rahab, Anna, Queen of Sheba, and Deborah. Sor Juana herself would later inspire the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf. She considered women formidable alchemists who worked their magic and science in the kitchen, understanding the basics of chemistry through their cookery and sustaining countless generations through their knowledge and experience. While many of her peers in Ciudad de México, at the time, were undernourished in intellect and imagination, Sor Juana strove to feed her sisters’ feeble minds and weakened souls with the fruit of knowledge, enriching their lives with the savors of poetry, philosophy, and science. In her writing, La Repuesta we realize just how starved both sexes are for a fierce indomitable spirit and the fortitude that Sor Juana embodied. Here’s her recipe for making such a person:

(serves all)

1 pinch of ingratiating and feigned humility
1 bunch of all purpose Latin
1 bunch of all purpose Greek
1 fine quality library, use generously
– heaps of stimulating discussions with intellectual equals
– heavy and frequent doses of time alone to read, think, and write
6 or 7 stalks of coarsely chopped barbs to stick to your detractors
3 or 4 small lightly crushed infatuations, to steel the heart and color the mind
1/2 pound of religious piety to keep the higher ups at bay
1 (28oz) can of suffering

Snugly secure mind, heart, and soul in a caring and warm environment; leave room for growth and enlightened maturation; separate doubts from thoughts and discard the former. Shell vain preoccupations such as worries concerning the style and fashion of the day; stir together intellectualism and spirituality so they bond in symbiosis; add faith until its evaporated, bring to a boil to scald opposition; season with humor and serve immediately.

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