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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695) wrote poetry, prose, and plays and is considered the greatest of Mexican women writers. She was an intellectual prodigy, reportedly mastering Latin in twenty lessons, and at sixteen she entered a convent so that she might continue her learning. One of the most influential early feminists in the New World, she answered a bishop's criticism in a letter that has become a classic defense of the education of women. She collected a private library of 4,000 volumes, but when she was told that her studies were delaying the progress of her spiritual education, she gave away her books and devoted herself to religious studies.

Traditionally, scholars have attributed only one complete play to Sor Juana, but in 1989 Guillermo Schmidhuber discovered a lost play, The Second Celestina, which he proved conclusively to be Sor Juana's earliest comedia, co-authored with Agustin Salazar y Torres. Schmidhuber's critical study is the first dedicated exclusively to the secular plays and the first to confirm Sor Juana's authorship of three dramatic pieces. Combining literary history and criticism, Schmidhuber explores the life and originality of Sor Juana's dramas and helps elucidate her enigmatic genius.

Though Sor Juana's work as a poet and intellectual has received increasing attention in the last decade, writing about her has rarely taken into account her role as dramatist. Schmidhuber helps correct this critical imbalance by examining Sor Juana's plays in light of dramatic theory. He finds elements of both mannerist and baroque theater in her work, sometimes both within the same play.

Critic and playwright Guillermo Schmidhuber is Secretary of Culture for Jalisco state in Mexico.

Shelby Thacker teaches Spanish at Asbury College.

"A good secondary source on a hitherto unstudied topic."—British Bulletin of Publications of Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain

"Will remain the authoritative account of this portion of Sor Juana’s theatre for years to come. It is therefore a must for all Sor Juana scholars and, as well, for every university library."—Calliope

"Schmidhuber clearly knows this material well and has invested his energy in preparing a superb collection."—George Woodyard

"A mix of literary history, criticism, and solidly-based interpretation that blends into a unique kind of study."—Leon Lyday

"A demonstration of Sor Juana’s mastery of the style, form, and genre of Golden Age theater."—Seventeenth-Century News

"Schmidhuber’s critical study is the first dedicated exclusively to the secular plays and the first to confirm Sor Juana’s authorship of three dramatic pieces."—Translation Review

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, Sor Juana, Mexican drama, Mexican literature


Latin American Literature


Written in collaboration with Olga Martha Peña Doria ; translated by Shelby Thacker.

The Three Secular Plays of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: A Critical Study
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