Subversive obedience: Confessional letters by eighteenth century Mexican colonial nuns
AuthorOwens, Sarah Elizabeth
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractEighteenth century colonial Mexico hosted a wide number of religious women who put quill to parchment and wrote spiritual letters to their confessors. These texts display impressive subversive rhetorical strategies, five of which are the focal point of this dissertation. The three nuns studied in this dissertation are Sor Maria Coleta de San Jose (?-1775), Sor Sebastiana de la Santisima Trinidad (1709-1757) and Sor Maria Anna de San Ignacio (1695-1756). Chapter one examines the spiritual and literary European foremothers of eighteenth century colonial religious women. This chapter examines the life and letters of Radegund (518-587), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Catherine of Siena (1347?-1380), and Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). Their writings all demonstrate early signs of subversive rhetoric that can be detected centuries later in the nuns' letters examined in this study. The second chapter is divided into two sections. The first part provides an overview of colonial Mexico with a particular emphasis on Mexican nuns and their letters. The second half of the chapter carves out a viable discursive space for nuns' spiritual letters. This section revises and reinterprets the colonial literary canon from a variety of theoretical perspectives including feminist theory and cultural studies. The last three chapters are each dedicated to one of the three Mexican nuns mentioned above. Their letters are analyzed according to the following rhetorical strategies: (1) the rhetoric of humility, (2) the description of penance, (3) the description of fasting, (4) the retelling of visions with Christ, and (5) the retelling of visions with Saint Teresa or the Virgin Mary. In conclusion, due to their precarious situation as religious women under the ever vigilant eye of a patriarchal and misogynist society, these nuns opted to incorporate these strategies within their spiritual letters. Sor Coleta, Sor Sebastiana and Sor Maria Anna deliberately placed subversive rhetorical strategies within their letters in order to express otherwise controversial or questionable ideas.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Spanish and Portuguese