Sor Juana’s fame rests on her lyrical poetry. Her work is highly praised for its use of symbolism, decorative and exotic imagery, hyperbole, contrast, paradox, and references to important fields of learning in her time, such as philosophy, theology, and science. While the modern reader may occasionally wish for a more personal and individual voice behind her writings’ highly stylized conventions, her work clearly places her among the poets of the Baroque tradition of Spain. She shares in this tradition with writers like Luis de Góngora y Argote and Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Her poems are demonstrations of talent in manipulating language and form, rather than personal revelations. From the beginning, Sor Juana’s writing shows skill in using the styles of her time. Her intelligence and extensive reading are evident. From the time she entered the convent in 1669, Sor Juana wrote many poems, but it is impossible to date them exactly because the originals have been lost and because her style does not exhibit much change. Her works show a great sense of form and proportion and an ability with wordplay and contrasts.
Sor Juana cultivated the full range of poetry typical for her times, including courtly poems, occasional verse (for special occasions and poetry contests), humorous poetry, religious verses (especially villancicos, carols composed to be sung on a religious holiday), and love poetry. Her courtly poems are numerous, but the love poetry is considered more important—among them are some poems considered to be Sor Juana’s best.
The critics of her time did not find it strange that a nun would write love poetry. She wrote as a woman of the upper classes and enjoyed the protection of the court. Of course, at the same time she was writing villancicos, an appropriate activity for a nun. Her love poems explore conventional aspects of the theme: the pain of rejection, the beauty of the beloved, the irrationality of being in love, and the emotion of pure and distant love. Some of the poetry is addressed to a shadowy male figure named Silvio or Fabio while other times she speaks in a male persona and addresses her verses to a woman. The latter poems correspond most nearly to convention.
Baroque poetry is characterized by extravagant description and a love of the exotic. Sor Juana’s verses incorporate her homeland, Mexico, which was certainly an exotic place from the European perspective. As Mexican poet and cultural critic Octavio Paz has noted, the mestizos and mulattoes she describes are primarily picturesque and semicomic, in keeping with the seventeenth century view of the low position of such people. One poem introduces an herb doctor and his sorcerer’s brew, while another, a villancico, presents the tocotín, a lively Aztec dance complete with Nahuatl words.
When Sor Juana describes her world at court, she creates portraits, exploring as she does so the differences between the subject and his or her portrait. One poem, speaking of a flattering portrait of herself, reflects upon life’s illusion and vanity, which ends with death and a return to dust. Other portraits, like one of Lisarda, make fun of the literary style in which they are written, using self-parody. This type of literary game, which is hard for the modern reader to appreciate, contains many imaginative and charming moments.
Writing was an integral part of Sor Juana’s identity, and some of her poems use imagery that identifies her with her pen. In one example, her pen produces words of mourning, which she calls black tears. Since pluma in Spanish means both pen and feather, flight and writing can be related with a play on the same word. Pluma in turn represents the whole wing, and the wing contributes to an image of flight. First Dream, for example, identifies intellectual striving and boldness with Phaeton’s mythological failed flight in Apollo’s chariot.
In the area of religious drama, Sor Juana wrote three plays of the type called an auto sacramental, a one-act play performed during the feast of Corpus Christi. Her best known of these is The Divine Narcissus. Although performed for Corpus Christi, the theme of the Eucharist is very often not central to the action of an auto. These plays, derived from medieval religious plays, were often performed with much pageantry and elaborate costumes. All of Sor Juana’s three autos were introduced with prologues called loas. The loa before The Divine Narcissus portrays an Aztec ceremony in which Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, was broken apart and eaten—a clear parallel to the Christian Eucharist.
Sor Juana’s most personal works are the poems that address the price of her intellectual distinction. One of her most famous asks why the world hounds her and what harm is done if she chooses to fill her mind with things of beauty rather than worry about outward, physical beauty. She was certainly well aware that being a woman attracted gushy, condescending praise, as well as harsh criticism, for her intellectual accomplishments. In one poem, she wonders whether European readers are too willing to see perfection in her work because a woman who writes well is so unusual, such a special case. Whether criticized or praised, Sor Juana surely experienced the isolation of a woman who was not living within the accepted sphere.
The Divine Narcissus
First produced: El divino Narciso, c. 1680 (first published, 1690; English translation, 1945)
Type of work: Play
This poetic drama presents a series of allegorical tableaux in which Human Nature reveals her search for Christ in the form of Narcissus.
The Divine Narcissus, based in part on the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus, is considered Sor Juana’s masterpiece of religious theater. The characters are all allegorical. The divine Narcissus...
(The entire section is 2449 words.)
Dominick Cruz has spent much of his life learning and understanding the intricacies of mixed martial arts and how every movement means something.
He twice became the UFC bantamweight champion. He has won 22 of his 24 professional fights. So, yes, he knows what he’s talking about when he works as an analyst during the fights on the Fox Sports networks and pay-per-view.
With knowledge of his sport so deeply ingrained, Cruz has had to learn to dial back some of his intricate analysis during the fights for the casual viewer. It wasn’t too difficult for him to do that, he said, except for this one.
“The only time you feel yourself maybe trying to over-explain something is when you got two guys on the ground grappling the entire fight,” Cruz said. “That’s literally the No. 1 area people just have no clue what’s going on. Hit the ground and they just see guys rolling. They don’t understand that every single movement is a tactical movement to waste energy, conserve energy, choke the guy, break the guy’s limb, or get back to the feet where he can beat the crap out of you because he’s a nasty K1 kickboxer.”
Cruz grew passionate as he explained it further on Friday afternoon.
“The actual threat on the ground is a huge one and people just have absolutely no idea, no clue about it, and so they just say ‘Boooooooo,’” Cruz said. “It’s my job to educate people so that instead of booing, they have a sense of respect for the understanding of how difficult it is.”
The rise of Cruz as an analyst, be it on the desk or live fights, has not gone unnoticed by fans, colleagues or TV and UFC executives. Cruz will be part of Fox’s three-person booth for UFC Long Island at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday alongside play-by-play man Jon Anik and fellow analyst Brian Stann.
“There are few guys, in any sport, who analyze sports who you can learn as much from than Dominick Cruz,” Anik said. “He just has a way of simplifying the inherently complicated that just makes it so ingestible for surface MMA fans.”
Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter
Receive stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.
Saturday marks the first time Fox will use a three-person booth for its broadcast. The UFC at times has used a three-person team to call fights recently. Anik said he has worked with 10 different combinations of people calling UFC fights in the past few years. He, Cruz and Stann worked together for the first time at UFC 212 in Brazil last month.
“When there’s just two of you and there’s a little bit of silence, there’s a lot more real estate to jump in there,” Anik said. “But when we get maybe two or three seconds of silence in a three-man booth, I know at any given time instead of one analyst getting ready to chime in, there could be two of them. So I better make sure that I have something important to say. Otherwise, I should wait a beat.”
Cruz praised Anik for his ability to call the action, let the analysts analyze and keep the broadcast running smoothly.
“Me and Stann will always work well together because we’re the analysts,” Cruz said. “We just kind of feed off each other. But when it comes to Anik, it’s all about that lead guy to deliver things right, to ask the right questions. He has to kind of traffic everything.
“He’s always there to save you if you mess something up.”
Anik attributed much of his success to working alongside Stann, a former WEC light heavyweight champion and a Silver Star recipient as a first lieutenant in the Marines, and watching him prepare for a broadcast.
“I’d get credit for being well prepared and then I see this guy go into Marine mode,” Anik said. “Nobody in the history of my professional career has forced me to raise my game like that guy has.”
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter