El arte nuevo de hacer vidas: the soldier, the playwright, and the mystic: multiple transgressions in the presentation of their vidas/lives

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University of Alabama Libraries

This dissertation contemplates the lives and writings of three seventeenth-century Spanish Colonial conventual authors - Catalina de Erauso, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Madre Jerónima Nava y Saavedra - from a feminist and socio-historical perspective. From the elite female environment of the cloistered convent Erauso, Sor Juana, and Nava intruded upon the male-dominated worlds of the Conquest, literature, and ecclesiastical debates. They appropriated the patriarchal narrative genres of Lives of Saints, the comedia, essays, and soldier's tales - all popular literary genres in early modern Spain and Colonial Spanish-America. Using these different literary genres Erauso, Sor Juana, and Nava produced textual representations of themselves that stand in stark contrast to the prescriptive female behavioral norms of the period. The analysis focuses on the manner in which, Erauso, Sor Juana and Nava appropriated, subverted, and exploited the dominant culture's own literary mechanisms (comedias, legal defense, essays, and confessional letters ) and its ideologies (female gender proscriptions) to legitimize their personal deviation from the dominant cultural norm. The innovations and particularities present in their works underscore these conventual authors' individual interpretations of femininity, masculinity, and spirituality, which enabled them to gain a sense of agency for themselves. What Erauso, Sor Juana, and Nava said through their texts and with their lived experiences, specifically their unorthodox reformulations of gender roles, was transgressive for their times. Why then did the pillars of early modern Spain (the Church, the Crown, and Society) accept and even promote Erauso's Vida i sucesos, Sor Juana's La Respuesta, and Los empeños de una casa, and Nava's Autobiografía de una monja venerable? This dissertation's key proposition is that the Catholic Baroque worldview of the seventeenth-century Spanish Empire informed society's acceptance of the non-normative content and structure of Erauso, Sor Juana, and Nava's manuscripts and their lives. Seventeenth-century Spanish society's fascination with the Baroque phenomenon of monstrous hybrids and the dramatic character of the muger varonil was crucial in influencing widespread acceptance of these transgressive historical figures. Elucidating the Baroque Catholic milieu provides the opportunity to makes visible these exceptional women long hidden under the obfuscation of culture and time.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Romance literature, Latin American literature