Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

John Bainard Cowan


The writings of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz serve as her personal proclamation for the right of a woman to write and lead an intellectual life. The study begins by reviewing the Baroque world and its artistic trends. This is done in chapter one so that Sor Juana's artistic production can be better situated in the world at large. In chapter two, the study proceeds to review the professional nature of Sor Juana's writing. By observing the diverse nature of the nun's work, as well as the compensation for much of it, the nature of Sor Juana's motivation for writing can be clearly stated as professional. This allows for the study of her literature as literature designed to read and analyzed. In the third chapter, the focus is on the themes of women and gender roles as Sor Juana interpreted them from the writings of the Church Fathers. In her poetry, the nun clearly states that by denying her gender role and becoming a nun she gains the right to participate in the intellectual world of men. This assertion is further supported by her use of famous female figures of the religious tradition. The fourth chapter focuses on the depiction of the Virgin Mary in Sor Juana's religious poetry. The poet presents a vibrant and forceful Mary actively fighting the forces of evil. I argue that this representation serves to redefine the roles appropriate to women: obviously, if Mazy the mother of God was allowed to be an active agent in the name of God, then women were not divinely barred from active agency. In chapter five, the focus shifts to the use of other mujeres sabias that the nun relies upon to declare her right to write. The women, taken from Biblical stories and traditional mythology, are all presented as examples of the greatness that women can achieve. The final chapter, studying Sor Juana's love poetry, reaffirms the belief that Sor Juana wrote in order to argue that women deserved the right to be educated and to be treated as intellectually capable members of society.