BECOMING A NUN IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY MEXICO: AN EDITION OF THE SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARIA DE SAN JOSEPH (VOLUME I)
Recent studies of Hispanic nuns' autobiographical writings have revealed the valuable contribution such texts can make to a fuller understanding of a Hispanic feminine literary tradition. This disser- tation, a critical edition and study of Madre Mar(')ia de San Joseph's (1656-1719) autobiographical manuscript (Volume I), presents her work as a contribution to the subgenre of spiritual autobiography made popular by Saint Teresa of Avila and as a unique glimpse of the feminine view of domestic life on a rural hacienda in seventeenth century Mexico. An Augustinian Recollect nun and founder of the Convents of Santa Monica (Puebla) and Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Oaxaca), Madre Mar(')ia wrote over twelve volumes at the behest of various confessors. All twelve volumes recount her life experiences; however, only the first volume contains an autobio- graphical structure. A complete and coherent text in style and con- tent, Volume I retells the story of Mar(')ia de San Joseph's secular life (1656-1687) and struggle to gain entrance into the convent.
The particular interest of the first volume stems from the author's ability to inscribe her life story within the tradition of spiritual auto- biography established by Saint Augustine, through her frequent use of religious rhetoric and hagiographical narrative formula, and, at the same time, contribute an individual element to the subgenre by recording the meeting the individual with the outside world. Mar(')ia focuses primarily on her familial and ecclesiastical relation- ships which thwarted her attempts to take the veil. In the process, the author illuminates the world which in she moved: the heart of Baroque Mexico with all of its tensions and contradictions inherited from the Counter Reformation. Furthermore, within the context of Mexican Colonial literature, Mar(')ia de San Joseph's story provides a fresh point of view. Many relaciones of the conquest and mission- aries' accounts present the male role in the New World as a "conquistador espiritual". The Augustinian nun's life story offers a female corollary: the woman as a contemplative virgin whose virtuous life is a testimony to America's contribution to Christianity. Whereas male discourse tends towards description of actions within the physical environment, Madre Mar(')ia's voice comprises a feminine discourse which reveals her inner world of relationships, domestic tasks, and spirituality. Hers is an account of feminine life which gives us a fuller picture of the colonial world.