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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, women in academics, Hispanic literature


In the Respuesta de la poetisa a la muy ilustre Sor Filotea de la Cruz, her famous letter/treatise, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648/51–1695) eloquently defends her right to study, learn, write poetry, and pursue academic matters. In this document, Sor Juana repeatedly refers to her intellectual activities as arising from an innate desire in her. This “desire to know,” that she “knows not whether to take as a Heaven-sent favor or as a punishment,” was indeed a recurrent theme in her mental explorations. Sor Juana’s Respuesta a Sor Filotea constitutes an extraordinary example of an early essay-like letter, a biographical narration, and a legal treatise repre- senting “a unique document in the history of Hispanic literature.” Its uniqueness results not so much from its rhetorical style and format as from the themes developed, their treatment, and the subjective, reflective nature of Sor Juana’s prose, particularly as part of Hispanic literature, a literature where “reflections about the solitary adventures of the soul have been a neglected topic in the work of the great Hispanic writers.” Thus, it has been said that “few documents of the seventeenth century embrace mat- ters of learning, intellectual freedom, and power with such erudition and eloquence as does the Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz.”