Complete Story


Spring 2012, 42:2, pages 144-163

Reading and Writing Sor Juanas Arch: Rhetorics of Belonging, Criollo Identity, and Feminist Histories

Abstract: Sor Juanas 1680 arch, designed and written in her role as professional writer for Church and state, consisted of commissioned words, art, and performance to celebrate the arrival of the new viceroy. It is significant as the remaining trace of a seventeenth-century female exerting high-level political influence on the closed, patriarchal society of New Spain. Reading and writing about the arch presents multiple challenges, including lack of the full text for what was an ephemeral event as well as a problem in recent feminist criticism, which insists on seeing Sor Juana as only a rebellious iconoclast. I argue that the work, and Sor Juana herself, must be read as having both a conservative, hegemonic agenda and radical critique of dominant ideology. This "both/and" move, which I position as necessary for a robust feminist approach, helps us better understand the complexity of Creole identity and belonging in colonial Mexico.

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