Devotional Exercises / Los Ejercicios Devotos of Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz, Mexico’s Prodigious Nun (1648-1695)

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Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship

The works that Sor Inés de la Cruz (1648/51–1695) wrote specifically for the church have largely been neglected until now. This book on the devotional exercises of one of Mexico’s most highly acclaimed writers provides a passageway into the relatively unexplored religious area of her life and adds another layer of understanding to the rest of her writings. Relatively untouched by critical review, the Ejercicios / Exercises were thought to have little, if any, literary value in comparison with her more canonized output. However, this insightful study and annotated bilingual translation gives this prominent writer the attention she deserves as an author of religious and devotional texts. The author examines the thematic, rhetorical, historical and scientific elements of late seventeenth-century colonial Mexico and their impact on the Ejercicios / Exercises. He also highlights how the Ejercicios / Exercises function as a theologically sound Church document that offers meditations and exercises on humility, obedience, the Incarnation and the Immaculate Conception. As part of this process, he signals how Sor Juana’s religious discourse provides important continuity with her secular production. The publication of this annotated bilingual edition offers Sor Juana’s English-speaking audience the opportunity to experience her prowess as author of devotional literature.


“With this volume, the Ejercicios devotos joins a growing number of recent publications of spiritual works by early modern women in Spain and New Spain. Newly discovered Hispanic women writers of the period are now receiving attention as religious figures, representative of complex beliefs and polemics, in ways not accorded to Sor Juana the “literary” writer … Grady Wray’s adept and literary analysis takes us through this previously occluded text, restoring its contexts and showing its significance … [and his] beautiful translation honors the deft complexities of Sor Juana’s text by maintaining a voice that sometimes presents itself as straightforward, information-laden, and direct … This presentation of Ejercicios devotos is learned, engaging, eloquent, and important. Indispensable for any student of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, it adds to the growing interest in early modern spirituality and religious thinking the voice of one of the era’s foremost writers and thinkers.” – (from the Preface) Amanda Powell, Professor of Hispanic Literature and translation, University of Oregon

“Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is perhaps the most fascinating, talented and well-known figure of the Spanish Baroque era. That she flourished in colonial New Spain, light-years from the cultural center of the Spanish Empire makes her work all the more intriguing and worthy of praise and scholarship. Much has been written about Sor Juana’s Baroque sensibilities and about her advocacy of women’s rights and abilities. This study presents another, little-studied, aspect of this spectacular author: her devotional writings. It is a rare scholar who can preserve the literary essence of a text in translation while offering an academic discourse that grounds the translation in historical and cultural context. In this study, translation, and critical edition, Grady C. Wray joins an elite group of gifted scholars and translators including Amanda Powell, who writes the preface to the study, Electra Arenal , Stacey Schlau, Kathleen Meyers, and Allison Weber in bringing early modern women’s voices from the Spanish colonies to contemporary readers and scholars. This study, however, marks the first time Sor Juana’s devotional literature has been studied in detail.

In a side-by-side bilingual edition of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s devotional exercises Los Ejercicios Devotos. Wray provides Spanish- and English-speaking readers access to Sor Juana’s religious writings dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to the Immaculate Conception. Wray meticulously establishes the background for the composition of devotional exercises and the socio-cultural context of the theological debate surrounding the emerging doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the late seventeenth century … Wray’s edition is a treasure for scholars and students of colonial Latin America, of religious history, and of women’s roles and voices in the early modern era. The study and annotated critical edition will also please readers of religious writings as the translations are extremely faithful to the original, yet elegant and imminently readable. Wray’s respect for preserving the tone of the original text during the translation process led him to consult the sisters of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Highland Mills, New York to assure that the English translations maintained the devotional tone of the original. The side-by-side bilingual edition, with its precise annotations will allow many to enjoy both the original texts and their translations.” – Jeanne Gillespie, Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Spanish The University of Southern Mississippi

“This bilingual edition introduces an important seventeenth-century spiritual work to English speakers and will be a wonderful addition to the libraries of scholars with interest in early modern women’s studies, history, literature, religious studies and early modern science. Dr. Wray’s beautiful translation captures the sense and the spirit of Sor Juana’s message and his analysis breaks new ground in Sor Juana scholarship by its balanced approach to a fascinating and complex woman who was of the world, but not in the world.” – Dr. Susan M. Smith, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Hampden-Sydney College

Table of Contents

Preface by Amanda Powell
1. The Exercise of Humble Obedience
2. The Immaculate Conception: Sor Juana’s Iconographical Portrait of Words
3. The Pursuit of Wisdom
4. Scientific Devotion
A Note on the Translation
Los Ejercicios Devotos / The Devotional Exercises: A Bilingual Annotated Edition

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