Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

It seems impossible that I had not heard of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz before. A woman so driven by curiosity and scholarship that she entered religious service in order to continue its pursuit. She seems not to have been especially religious, especially at first, but it was her only route to continue study and she took it.

The text of hers included in Available Means, from "La Respuesta," is an impassioned plea to be allowed to continue studying, and it is a fine example of rhetoric. She points to personal evidence of dedication, such as cutting her hair, though it was not the fashion, to encourage herself to learn Latin more quickly. She logically lays out the reasons that she must study everything in order to study Scripture. In order to place herself in a lineage of women who learn, she lists women of the past.

A common thread in these rhetorics is the idea of apology or humbling. The woman writing must prevent herself from being seen as a threat to the established order while also doing what she wants to do. She becomes an exception, and exceptional. Sor Juana disclaims her love of learning as meritorious, because it is, to her, a necessity. And yet, she gives a subtle dig, by stating that these habits of hers are seen as meritorious in men (77).

Thus, these women rhetors distance themselves from their own opinions, or even the idea that women can have opinions. Christine used allegory. Julian, Catherine and Margery used religion. Sor Juana uses nature, specifically, her own natural inclination to learn, to paint herself as one in thrall to learning, with no particular merit beyond her nature.

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