Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s The Answer: “Words” Beyond Silence?

Alisa J. Tigchelaar

Calvin CollegeGrand Rapids, Michigan, USA


Abstract: Since Seventeenth-century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was rediscovered in the twentieth century, she has been valued as an early advocate for gender equality. Her peerless literary talent and notable production gave rise to public accolades in her lifetime, even as her singular theological acuity, daringly expressed in public formats, contributed to her eventual apparent silencing at the hands of Church authorities in “New Spain,” who finally bid her cease secular study and writing. Using Sor Juana’s last circulated written work, The Answer, as a point of departure, this study investigates how the rhetorical strategies the nun uses therein point to an affirmation of these central and interrelated things: her theology of the important Christian notion of vocation, and her ultimate right, even as a woman, to study secular material and write. Conclusions thus address what Sor Juana herself could have been saying through, and beyond, her ensuing public silence.

Keywords: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, The Answer, (theology of) vocation, rhetoric.

Rhetoric and Communications E-journal, Issue 37, November 2018,,, ISSN 1314-4464

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