Biography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Octavio Paz, a distinguished Mexican poet, social commentator, literary critic, and diplomat, has written more than forty volumes of poetry and prose. Any new work by Paz would merit attention solely on the basis of his literary distinction. His biography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648?-1695), however, is destined to figure as literary history. This biography is noteworthy because of the sensitivity with which Paz addresses the tragic dilemma of a female poet who wrote in an age hostile to intellectual activity on the part of women. Further, Paz connects the story of Sor Juana with a theme pervasive in his own work: the difficulties a Mexican poet faces in establishing a cultural identity. While bringing to this fascinating study extraordinary erudition, Paz never lapses into pedantry. His rich and painstaking scholarship enhances a narrative that is as enlightening as it is compelling.
Even a factual outline of Sor Juana’s life is fascinating. She was born Juana Ramírez, an illegitimate child with no father and no fortune; at the age of ten, she was sent to live with relatives in Mexico City. At fifteen she became a lady-in-waiting at the court, earning the patronage of a succession of the viceroys and vicereines. Two vicereines, in particular, Doña Leonor Carreto, Marquesa de Mancera, and María Luisa...
(The entire section is 2055 words.)
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