CONFERENCE ON SOR JUAN INEZ DE LA CRUZ
FOR HISTORY 30/LOPEZ
The date was Friday May 13, 2011, I was on my way to attend my first conference ever on Sor Juana Inez De La Cruz. Who is this woman you ask? Good question because as of this date I never heard of her either. As I found out before Juana became Sor, which is sister of the church in Spanish, she was a highly educated, well read girl, who wrote many poems, and plays, and the biased views current society had on women, compared to men. She also wrote about the hypocrisy of men who preach goodness and spirituality, but yet give in to the pleasures of the flesh. Having declined several proposals of marriage, Juana in the 1600's decided to join the local Convent. Being the rebel that she was she would still write about such hot topics in the Convent, but soon was ordered to abandon such writings and concentrate on spiritual ones.
The conference on Sor Juana was held at Cal State University, Los Angeles, and I attended the first session bright and early. The opening act was enjoyable because a Spanish Literature Professor recreated a scene that went hand in hand with a portrait of Sor Juana. This scene showed Juana in the Convent, frustrated with society and praying to God to hear her cry. As I sat there I enjoyed the scene, but had to wonder, is this really a reenactment?, because no one, not even people in the 1600's could have known or imagine what was going on in her mind.
The first guest speaker was a woman named Leslie Monsour, who gave a talk on the Baroque era in the new Spain, and the ability of trying to translate the writings of Sor Juanas sonnets. Trying to repeat the Baroque movement that was going on in Europe, the New Spain was introduced with Baroque that can be seen in the architect of such building as churches, homes, and political buildings. In the New Spain, which consisted of many Criollo, the decor of these buildings were highly festive, and decorated with many vibrant colors. These festive colors went to show the expression of hope that the Criollo had in wanting to be a society which is different than than Spanish. Although Sor Juana had little to do with the Baroque architect, what was going on in here mind was the fascination of the opposites. Such things as good versus evil, dark versus light, rich versus poor, are just some of the inspirations Sor Juana had when writing her sonnets. The lecturer, Leslie Monsour, went on to try to give her opinion on the translations of Sor Juanas sonnets.
The vast fascination that scholars, historians, and society have with Sor Juana has led to different translations of what she was thinking when writing her sonnets. To translate the sonnets of Sor Juana from Spanish to English, is a task in itself, but to try to comprehend why she wrote such sonnets is even a bigger task. Historians are not psychics, and to try to dissect her translation of her sonnets is almost impossible. As I sat there listening to Miss Monsours lecture, and reading the pamphlet she had passed out of the different interpretations, I realized that many people had their views on what she was trying to say. A man can translate Sor Juanas sonnets from a masculine view, and women the opposite, but in the end the one thing that matters is that the main focus should be the same. There were many sonnets being read and discussed, and it would take up a lot of time and space to try to dissect each one, but I will try to break down one that caught my interest. Sonnet #149 (translated to English)
“Out of spirited resentment, she assesses the choice of a state that lasts until death”.
To contemplate the perils of the sea Would end all voyages. If made aware
Of all potential dangers, none would dare
Challenge the bull's defiant bravery.