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Films >> Yo, La Peor De Todas (I, The Worst of All) (1990) >>

1) Some people may feel that my vision of Sor Juana is exaggerately feminist, but, as Paz's book makes clear, she was herself an ardent feminist, though, of course, she would not have had access to the term 250 years before Virginia Woolf. The motivating drive of Sor Juana's life, the reason she decided to become a nun, was the search for "a room of one's own," for the physical and ideological space to pursue her inexhaustible search for knowledge. Paz himself, in my opinion, has written a feminist text about the world's first modern feminist writer. (Maria Luisa Bemberg qtd in Pick 78)

2) A female director must maneuver through a complex maze of conservative, governmental, financial, and labor institutions wary to concede access to her gender. [...] Maria Luisa Bemberg recurs to such multiple personas not only to explore autobiographical facets, but, more importantly, to hypothesize, to textualize those other directions her life and art may have taken had it not been for the specific yields of the women's movement. (Williams 172-73)

3) Quintessence of the Baroque, bridge to the Enlightenment, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz has also been celebrated as the "First Feminist of the New World." (MerrimFeminist Perspectives 7)

4) For [Sor Juana], literature became a game of masks that allowed her to assume any identity, to change genders or to become neuter. The importance of Sor Juana is that she defended the rationality of women and was able to do so because the slippage between her devalued status as a woman and her empowerment by writing led her to understand gender difference as a social construction, and interpretation as a rationalization of male interests. (Franco xv)

5) Why would a seventeenth-century Mexican nun, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, be the subject of a feature film, Yo, la peor de todas (I, the Worst of All) by Argentina's most famous woman director, Maria Luisa Bemberg, in 1990? Why has a playwright such as Antonio Arenas, whose The Phoenix of the New World caused a minor sensation at Paris' Theatre Odeon in the sumer of 1992, been inspired to dramatize her life? Why did the 1990 exhibit "Mexico, Splendor of Thirty Centuries" at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art contain a near-life-size portrait of Sor Juana? Why is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz generating dozens of scholarly articles and books in several disciplines and numerous languages? The fact that even high school students in Latin America today, at the mention of Sor Juana's name, immediately recite the first lines of "Hombres necios," her satirical poem on double standard, points to another explanation of her recent popularity among scholars and a more general public: few figures embody more profoundly the ambivalent integration of educated women in society and culture. (Kirk 9)

6) Women were denied knowledge of their history, and thus each woman had to argue as though no woman before her had ever thought or written. Women had to use their energy to reinvent the wheel, over and over again, generation after generation. Men argue with the giant that preceded them; women argued against the oppressive weight of millenia of patriarchal thought. ... Since they could not ground their argument in the work of women before them, thinking women of each generation had to waste their time, energy and talent on constructing their argument anew. Yet they never abandoned the effort. Generation after generation, in the face of recurrent discontinuities, women thought their way around and out from under patriarchal thought. (Lerner qtd in Merrim Modern Women xxiii)

7) Replying to a gentleman from Peru who had sent her some small clay vessels, telling her she should become a man:
Sir, in reply to your note,
no help at all is at hand.
No Muse dictates a word,
none is disposed to be bland.
No, not one of those nine,
mothers of wit, jest, and joke,
dares respond to your verse
with even the feeblest croak.
Apollo himself is struck dumb.
See how he stops in his tracks.
And so, replying to you
is simply out of the question--
or maybe you'd help me out
with some sublime suggestion?
Such things are not my concern;
with one thought I came to this spot:
to be rid of those who'd inquire
whether I am a woman or not.
It's only fit that your talent
should dwell in more climates than one,
for those who are born to such greatness
cannot live for themselves alone. (Juana Ines de la Cruz in Trueblood 27-33)

8) If Aristotle had been a cook, he would have written much more. (Juana Ines de la Cruz, "Respuesta" in Trueblood 226)

9) ...the interpretation of the Holy Scripture should be forbidden not only to women, considered so very inept, but to men, who merely by virtue of being men consider themselves sages... (Juana Inez de la Cruz, "Respuesta" in Trueblood230)

10) Sor Juana should have taught cultural studies. She really is establishing the terms of a feminist debate that will come 300 years later: the patriarchy makes people write in a certain logical and causal order to maintain divisions and unequal power relations. If everyone uses the same logic and studies the same work, there will not be much dissent from the current order of things. And what seems like dissent is really inscribed by patriarchy in the first place--a sort of escape valve that makes people think they are opposing the Order when they really are not. Sor Juana, on the other hand, is questioning the structure of such an order (though, she does not question its logic). But since she makes links between subjects that traditional learning does not encourage, one must wonder if the church elders found Sor Juana's writing a threat since it blurred boundaries and textual authorities. If she starts making new connections, can such connections destabilize the traditional order's regime? Because she was both smart and unorthodox made her a threat and led to her admonishment by Sor Philothea de la Cruz, who claims that "Scholarship not devoted to Christ Crucified is folly and sheer vanity"-- translation: get with the program, girl, you're giving us a bad name here. (Chris Robe, graduate student, Lehigh University)

11) Her tone of subordination is a way of articulating her insubordination to the prevailing ideas about knowledge, intellectual pursuits, and women. The "I" in here may sound humble at times, but this is an "I" who is determined to subvert the obstacles that impede her intellectual and artistic pursuits. (Paul Galante, Lehigh University)

12) Save Betsy Ross (whom I remember chiefly for sewing a flag), I recall virtually no women making appearances in my American history classes. (Kevin Powell)