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The criticism is coming from inside the casa: Sor Juana’s colonial critique

Faculty Advisor




Sor Juana, colonial, gracioso, Los empeños de una casa, empire, power, comedia

Abstract (summary)

The debates surrounding Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s fictional work have frequently centered on her use of autobiographical details to inform her characterizations and plots. In Los empeños de una casa, Sor Juana incorporates not only her personal details but also her deep connections to Mexico as a colonized state, to an extent not yet fully explored by scholars. Thus, she breaks the rules of her peninsular counterparts, and subsequently critiques Spain as an imperial power under the guise of a simple comedia de capa y espada. Although the gracioso servant, Castaño, has always been obviously a colonial figure, there are arguments that two more of the protagonists have New World roots. As the play progresses, we find they can overcome the machinations of their peninsular foils at least in part due to their outsider status, ultimately demonstrating a kinder, gentler form of living and loving. Given the play’s original intended audience of religious and secular powers, this demonstrates not only Sor Juana’s subtle genius, but her ability to fly under the radar of her potential censors, ultimately foreshadowing the issues that would arise as Spain’s reach grew into an uncontrollably large empire, destined to fail.

Publication Information

Erin Cowling (2023) The Criticism is Coming from Inside the Casa: Sor Juana’s Colonial Critique, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, 77:2, 89-99,


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Article Post-Print



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Embargoed Until:

December 28, 2024

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