Love and choice in Latin love poetry and the poetry of Sor Juana In\'es de la Cruz: An essay in feminist literary criticism

Date of Completion

January 1990


Literature, Classical|Literature, Comparative|Literature, Latin American




The principal action of a woman in the western tradition of love poetry is to accept or reject the suitor. Within the theme of love, choice meant a singular and active role for women. The Latin love poets first projected that role for a woman. I argue that later Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz reshaped the role into one of introspective consideration about her own feelings in the matter of love and choice.^ In Chapter One issues of feminist literary criticism touching on these matters are mentioned. I argue that Sor Juana exploits for her own purposes the "empty space" provided by the silence of the beloved in Latin love poetry.^ In Chapter Two the scope of the action of the beloved in Latin love poetry is reviewed. Evaluations of the role of the beloved by three other critics is analyzed. I argue that the Latin love poets in advertently created an active role for the beloved in order to reveal their own feelings.^ In Chapter Three Sor Juana's acquaintance with Latin literature is considered. I argue that her knowledge both of the language and the literature matched that of any scholar of the day and that, furthermore, within that tradition, Sor Juana concentrated on the achievements of women.^ In Chapter Four I show how Sor Juana achieves this new voice for a woman in the persona of the poet/lover. I argue that standard notions of the tradition of love poetry must be reinterpreted in order to understand Sor Juana's poetry.^ In Chapter Five I place the love poetry within the context of her other work, and define the character of the poetic persona of Sor Juana as distinguished from biographical speculation about her personality. ^