‘‘Como anillo al dedo’’
If Empeños de una casa takes up, in its way, the story of the illegibility
of the wife’s body that Perfect Wives, Other Women recounts, it also
tells a very different story. One could argue, in fact, that a reading
of Sor Juana’s play does not fit here ‘‘como anillo al dedo’’ [as a ring
on a finger], to borrow Sancho Panza’s words, that it does not per-
fect—complete—the readings of the textual wives of Luis de León
andCalderóndelaBarca.Neitherconductmanualnorhonorplay, Em-
peños offers no prescriptions—textual or medical—for perfecting the
wife’s body but, rather, flaunts its seductive imperfections.Womanly
perfection can only be conjugated by the verb ‘‘estar’’ (‘‘estoy dama
perfecta’’) in Sor Juana’s text; like gender itself, it is contingent, acci-
dental—a positioned form of ‘‘being.’’ Illegibility in the play is not
so much a source of anxiety (as in La perfecta casada) or a pretext for
punishment (as in El médico de su honra) as it is a necessary condition
for its plural erotic economies.What is more, the same illegibility that
in Fray Luis and Calderón revolves around the question of adultery is
deliberately transposed in Sor Juana’s drama onto categories of gen-
der and race. Perhaps most notably, it is difficult to locate in the play
the inquisitorial subtexts that, I have argued, make La perfecta casada
and El médico de su honra much more defiant and contestatory works
than has previously been imagined. If Empeños contains traces of Sor
Juana’s past run-ins with institutional power in New Spain (or hints of
future ones), those traces, those hints, are subtle at best.
But if the same tensions that make the wife’s body such a compel-
ling site for reading various forms of anxiety in early modern Spain
are either absent from or figure very differently in colonial Mexico (or
in Sor Juana’s text), there is no question that Sor Juana is a worthy
Previous Page Next Page