Sor Juana’s Appetite: Body, Mind, and Vitality in “First Dream”

  • Anna More


Throughout the seventeenth century, even as mechanical philosophy and the new science developed in Europe, Iberian regions remained tied to a Thomist Aristotelian heritage. With the broadening of the history of science in both disciplinary and geographical terms, the relationship between these two philosophical cultures has been reconsidered in several ways, beyond their traditional opposition. Not only did Aristotelianism provide a language that continued to undergird Cartesian and post-Cartesian philosophy, but late Aristotelianism itself developed beyond its fundamentally Thomist outline.1 The Jesuits were particularly important in making links, however tenuous, between the new science and scholasticism and their presence throughout the Iberian empires meant that a wide range of positions on issues of empirical and theoretical science circulated and were even publicly debated.2 In the permeable boundaries between confessional and regional scientific debates, whether these were located in the court or in a more amorphous Republic of Letters, it is possible to find places where Thomist metaphysics and post-Cartesian philosophy continued to share fundamental problems, such as the relationship between mind and body or the place of emotions in action and cognition.3


Faculty Psychology Imaginative Faculty Mechanical Philosophy Iberian Region Natural Impulse 
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  1. 1.
    For fundamental studies, see Dennis Des Chenes, Life’s Form: Late Aristotelian Conceptions of the Soul (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000) and Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in Descartes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); C. B. Schmitt, “The Rise of the Philosophical Textbook,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Quentin Skinner, C. B. Schmitt, Eckhard Kessler, Jill Kraye (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 792–804; Katharine Park, “The Organic Soul,” in ibid., 464–84; and Eckhard Kessler, “Psychology: The Intellective Soul,” in ibid., 485–534.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    On Jesuit science, see Mordechai Feingold (ed.), Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003); Steven J. Harris, “Mapping Jesuit Science: The Role of Travel in the Geography of Knowledge,” in The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773, ed. John O’Malley (University of Toronto Press, 1999); and Rivka Feldhay, “The Cultural Field of Jesuit Science,” in ibid. For Jesuit science in late seventeenth-century New Spain, see Anna More, “Cosmopolitanism and Scientific Reason in New Spain: Sigüenza y Góngora and the Dispute over the 1680 Comet,” in Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500–1800, ed. Daniela Bleichmar et al. (Stanford University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Aside from the works cited in note 1, above, see Susan James, Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1997) and Martin Pickavé and Lisa Shapiro (eds), Emotion and Cognition in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2012).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The widely disseminated work by Octavio Paz, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz o las trampas de la fe, 3rd edn (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1983) has been recently questioned on several fronts, but continues to provide a good general overview.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For Sor Juana’s Neoplatonism, the many works by José Pascual Buxó are indispensable. See, for instance, José Pascual Buxó, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Amor y conocimiento (Mexico: UNAM, 1996), 181–203. See also, Paz, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 475–81.Google Scholar
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  7. 7.
    See Alejandro Soriano Vallès, El Primero sueño de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Bases tomistas (Mexico: UNAM, 2000) and Alberto Pérez-Amador Adam, De finezas y libertad: acerca de la Carta Atenagórica de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz y las ideas de Domingo de Báñez (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Ecónomica, 2011).Google Scholar
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    Robert Pasnau, Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of Summa Theologiae 1a 75–89 (Cambridge University Press, 2002), 237–9.Google Scholar
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    The tension between Sor Juana and members of the church hierarchy began as early as 1682, the date of a letter to her spiritual advisor, the Jesuit Antonio Núñez de Miranda, in which she responds to his attempts to rein in her writing. See Antonio Alatorre, “La Carta de Sor Juana al P. Núñez (1682),” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 35.2 (1987).Google Scholar
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    St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 4 vols, vol. 1 (New York: Benziger Bros, 1947), Scholar
  12. 33.
    Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obra selecta, 2 vols (Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1994), 1:450.Google Scholar
  13. 44.
    Ibid., 36–7, 54–60. See also Gary Hatfield, “The Cognitive Faculties,” in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, ed. Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, 2 vols (Cambridge University Press, 2008), 2:955–61.Google Scholar
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    Soriano, El Primero sueño, 54–60. See Fray Luis de Granada, Introducción del Símbolo de la Fe (Madrid: Cátedra, 1989), 430–6.Google Scholar
  15. 46.
    Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Obras completas, 4 vols (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1951), 1:340. All further citations from “First Dream” come from this edition. Verses will be indicated in the text. The translation of “First Dream” is from Sor Juana lnés de la Cruz, Selected Works, trans. Edith Grossman (New York: Norton, 2014), 77–110.Google Scholar
  16. 47.
    See Garrett Sullivan Jr, Sleep, Romance, and Human Embodiment: Vitality from Spenser to Milton (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 17–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For an excellent summary of Galenic influences in the early modern period, see Angus Gowland, The Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy: Robert Burton in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 40–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See the citation from Averrões in Simo Knuuttila and Juha Sihvola (eds), Sourcebook for the History of the Philosophy of Mind: Philosophical Psychology from Plato to Kant (Heidelberg: Springer, 2014), 189.Google Scholar
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    Christopher Johnson, Hyperboles: The Rhetoric of Excess in Baroque Literature and Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 222–77.Google Scholar
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    On Kircher’s magic lantern as a metaphor, see Koen Vermeir, “The Magic of the Magic Lantern (1660–1700): On Analogical Demonstration and the Visualization of the Invisible Author,” The British Journal for the History of Science 38.2 (2005).Google Scholar

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