Sor Juana, the Poet: The Sonnets

Yo no estimo tesoros ni riquezas;
y así, siempre me causa más contento
poner riquezas en mi pensamiento
que no mi pensamiento en las riquezas.

-- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz from the Cervantes Virtual Library

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a major literary figure and the first great Latin American poet, is a product of el Siglo de Oro Español (Spanish Golden Age). El Siglo de Oro is one of the richest periods of literary production for Spain and the Spanish-speaking New World, and one in which form is more important than content, with a copious use of literary devices and the use of a complex, Latinized type of Spanish. These are qualities particularly seen in the sonnet, the chief verse form of this period.

In this lesson students will analyze two of Sor Juana’s sonnets: “A su retrato” and “En perseguirme, Mundo, ¿qué interesas?” in their original language of publication. The major characteristics of Spanish Golden Age poetry will be identified by analyzing the language, the structure, and the poetic devices used. Particular attention will be paid to the style el gongorismo (named after the great Spanish Golden Age poet Luis de Góngora y Argote), characterized by an “extreme Baroque,” including the Latinizing of language through an altered syntax, Latin terms, classical references, copious use of poetic devices, and the use of difficult vocabulary.

(For Spanish version of lesson click here.)

Guiding Questions

Why is Sor Juana considered one of the most important poets of the Baroque movement and the first great poet of Latin America?

What characteristics of the Baroque and of "el gongorismo" can be identified in the sonnets of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: understand how the historical and cultural contexts influence literary creation.

Identify and effectively analyze sonnets of the Spanish Golden Age in Spanish.

Listen and comprehend; read and analytically write about poetry in Spanish.