In Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's letter entitled "La Respuesta a Sor Filotea" (also known simply as "Reply"), this brilliant young nun responds to a variety of issues.
She writes first about an opinion that was spread abroad that she should concentrate more on "the study and explication of the Scriptures." She explained that she did not feel well-versed enough to address these topics, and that they should be left to those better suited. Her studies have been conducted to help her to grow intellectually, but she says she does not have enough expertise to teach—in fact, she says it would be "boundless arrogance in me." She simply wants to study for the sake of learning.
Sor Juana admits that she has a passion for learning that she has had all her life. She does not know if it is a blessing or a curse, but knows that when she tries to stop, there is an explosive reaction within her that makes her want to study and learn more than before.
Noting one mother superior who refused to let Sor Juana read, the young nun reports that she obeyed and did not pick up a book for the three months when she was under this mother superior's supervision. However, it was impossible to stop learning. The world around her—nature—became her primer rather than a book.
Cooking comes up in her letter. Sor Juana reports that she spent time in the kitchen learning "woman's work." She writes:
...my Lady, what can we women know, save philosophies of the kitchen?
(Her tone is deferential, but I find it hard to believe that Sor Juana actually believed this, in that she started reading very young—being considered by many a child prodigy—and could hardly keep from philosophizing as an adult.)
Next Sor Juana wonders what she has done wrong. She does not teach by writing for she feels she is not educated enough to do so. If people disagree with what she writes, they have that option, just as she disagreed with Vieira. She is simply sharing her opinions.
Finally she refers to her poetry, stating that many people condemn and "vilify" it. She doesn't understand these responses. She has tried to find a reason for it, but cannot. If someone writes something that is inappropriate, she challenges that it is not the fault of the art but the artist: she notes that problems arise from...
...the bad practitioner who debases [poems], fashioning devil's snares of them. And this occurs in all the faculties and sciences.
If there is evil, it exists everywhere, not just in poetry. Sor Juana cannot imagine that the problem with poetry is because a woman is writing it. She closes the letter defending her poetry by saying:
...I wager not a soul has ever seen an indecent verse of mine.