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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2015, Issue 207


Making meaning in women’s spiritual autobiography: Language, materiality, and agency in colonial New Granada

Constance G. Janiga-Perkins
Published Online: 2015-07-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0052


This article examines the multiple ways in which meaning is made in female spiritual autobiography by studying a specific text, the Vida by the Colombian Poor Clare nun Mother Gerónima del Espíritu Santo, neé Jerónima Nava y Saavedra (1669–1727). First, it analyzes this life story as a socially constructed assemblage of written words that have been shown by critics to create agency (dominant reading). Then, the article discusses how the materiality of its N1 manuscript also makes meaning and creates agency (non-dominant reading). Using the work of Van Leeuwen, Björkvall, and Karlsson, the study offers valuable insight into the meaning-making of Early Modern script in New Granada, an area that until now has not been placed under this particular branch of semiotic analysis. It also studies how the social practices surrounding the penitent/confessor relationship in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the exigencies of reading and editing today are strong forces in shaping manuscript material into meaning. The article concludes that the materiality of the N1 Vida documents the shades and hues of agency that the language of the manuscript alone cannot.

Keywords: colonial literature; social semiotics; manuscript studies; colonial Spanish America; female colonial writing subject; female spiritual autobiography


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-07-17

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 31–64, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0052.

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