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The Three Secular Plays of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The Three Secular Plays of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: A Critical Study

Guillermo Schmidhuber
In Collaboration with Olga Martha Peña Doria
Translated by Shelby C. Thacker
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 200
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    The Three Secular Plays of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
    Book Description:

    Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695) wrote poetry, prose, and plays and is considered the greatest of Mexican women writers. She was an intellectual prodigy, reportedly mastering Latin in twenty lessons, and at sixteen she entered a convent so that she might continue her learning. One of the most influential early feminists in the New World, she answered a bishop's criticism in a letter that has become a classic defense of the education of women. She collected a private library of 4,000 volumes, but when she was told that her studies were delaying the progress of her spiritual education, she gave away her books and devoted herself to religious studies.

    Traditionally, scholars have attributed only one complete play to Sor Juana, but in 1989 Guillermo Schmidhuber discovered a lost play,The Second Celestina, which he proved conclusively to be Sor Juana's earliest comedia, co-authored with Agustin Salazar y Torres. Schmidhuber's critical study is the first dedicated exclusively to the secular plays and the first to confirm Sor Juana's authorship of three dramatic pieces. Combining literary history and criticism, Schmidhuber explores the life and originality of Sor Juana's dramas and helps elucidate her enigmatic genius.

    Though Sor Juana's work as a poet and intellectual has received increasing attention in the last decade, writing about her has rarely taken into account her role as dramatist. Schmidhuber helps correct this critical imbalance by examining Sor Juana's plays in light of dramatic theory. He finds elements of both mannerist and baroque theater in her work, sometimes both within the same play.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5746-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. By Way of Prologue
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Guillermo Schmidhuber

    The present book is aimed at scholars as well as graduate students who are analyzing Sor Juana’s plays for the first time. I trust that the first group will find information about the secular plays that was previously unknown, and that it will serve as a foundation and motivation to further their critical research on Sor Juana’s theater. For the second group I am including a study on Sor Juana’sArt of Writing Playsand an analysis of the structures and language of the three secular pieces, as well as a synopsis of the plots and a summary of the...

  5. A Glossary of Literary Terms from Spanish
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. First Critical Act: Introduction to Sor Juana’s Dramatic Work
    (pp. 1-24)

    The pendulum of favorable review has swung once again toward Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. The cloistered obscurity of this nun has been increasingly lifted, bringing her into the light of the modern secular world. Today Sor Juana receives disproportionate praise, not because some of her work is inferior, but rather because of the focus on that part of her work as poet and her struggle as a woman intellectual. Less critical attention is given to her other contributions, such as her dramatic pieces or her religious prose. Today Sor Juana is first a woman, as evidenced in her...

  7. Second Critical Act: The Dramatic Itinerary of Sor Juana
    (pp. 25-44)

    Sor Juana’s three plays were written for the purpose of being performed at courtly celebrations—The Second Celestinafor the royal court, andThe Trials of a Noble House and Love Is Indeed a Labyrinthfor the viceroyal court. The first play was begun by Agustín de Salazar y Torres (1642-1675) in honor of the Queen, Mariana de Habsburgo (1634-1696), and was completed by Sor Juana.The Trials of a Noble Housewas staged in order to pay homage to the viceroy Tomas Antonio de la Cerda y Aragón, Count of Paredes and Marquis of Laguna. And the third,Love...

  8. Third Critical Act: Sor Juana’s Poetics for Drama
    (pp. 45-70)

    Just as Lope de Vega wrote an exposition of his dramatic theory in his controversial verse compositionThe New Art of Writing Plays,and just as Tirso de Molina left some written considerations about his dramatic art inThe Country Houses of Toledo,so too did Sor Juana leave scattered, between lines and in the margins of plots, many commentaries on her artistic concept of writing plays.¹ Here, I propose a classification of these remarks by Sor Juana, in order thus to round out the discussion of her art of dramaturgy.

    For a definition of Sor Juana’s concept of theater...

  9. Fourth Critical Act: The Second Celestina
    (pp. 71-98)

    In 1990, as the result of the research and discovery carried out by Guillermo Schmidhuber,The Second Celestina,by Agustín Salazar y Torres, was published with the determination that Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was the co-author. The edition [27] includes a prologue by Octavio Paz—“Chance or Justice?”—and a critical study by Schmidhuber. Prior to this find, several critics had suspected the existence of this lost play by Sor Juana: Ermilo Abreu Gomez in 1934, inSor Juana, Bibliography and Encyclopedia(293); Alberto G. Salceda, in the introduction to herComplete Works([26] 4:xxx-xxxii); Georgina Sabat–Rivers,...

  10. Fifth Critical Act: The Trials of a Noble House
    (pp. 99-128)

    Ever since the derogatory opinion by Menéndez Pelayo, which describesThe Trials of a Noble House as“an interesting and gallant imitation of the ‘cloak and dagger’ plays by Calderon” (History of Spanish-American Poetry,76), critics have underrated this play in comparison with the poetic work by Sor Juana. Even when editing it, Jimenez Rueda renders a judgment of doubtful critical value: “The characters intervene casually in the event, without any more purpose than can be found in a contredanse step. The author is so removed from the theater, that she forgets to indicate changes of scene. Few pages have...

  11. Sixth Critical Act: Love Is Indeed a Labyrinth
    (pp. 129-151)

    The very title of the play in the editio princeps relates that the “first and third acts are by Mother Juana; and the second by the lawyer, don Juan de Guevara, a famous intellectual from Mexico City” ([26] 4:207). Daniel has concluded that the need for co-authorship and the simplicity of the festival (a loaand threeacts) were due to the haste of the celebration (“A Terra Incognita,” 107), a supposition that seems plausible to me, especially when comparing this play with the ten dramatic elements found inThe Thais of a Noble House.During his years of literary...

  12. Seventh Critical Act: Posthumous Reputation of Sor Juana’s Theater
    (pp. 152-157)

    As a colophon, we include in this study of Sor Juana’s plays a brief commentary about the theatrical achievements of this playwright. Two kinds of dramatic authors exist in the history of the theater: those who initiate a style and become a school, like Lope or Moratin, in their respective periods, and those who take a dramatic model to its maximum height, like Calderon de la Barca and Sor Juana. Sor Juana’s plays closely follow the aesthetics of the Calderonian cycle, although not so much Calderon as Moreto, and they may be compared, without exaggerating their merit, to the most...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 158-178)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-191)
  15. Index
    (pp. 192-210)