Where Hunger's Brides departs from the preponderance of scholarship is in placing these themes at the very heart of her life and work.
Generally speaking, one or more of the following excerpts may provide some interest to scholars or students investigating European representations of the Conquest and New World - or the converse, views of Europe in the New World. Sor Juana is of particular importance here, in being, arguably, the only 17th-century artist of the first rank writing from a New World perspective.
- "Unstable Margins" - We meet Sor Juana's grandfather, a Spanish veteran of the Thirty Years' War who has settled in the mountains of Mexico. He begins to teach the young prodigy about Cortés's forays in the mountain pass above their hacienda - up to the volcano summits to get ice and sulphur for his cannon. This, just before the descent on the Mexica (Aztec) capital of Tenochtitlan.
- "Abecedario" - Juana learns that her wet nurse is descended from the wizard Martín Ocelotl who, with his twin, Andrés Coatl, led an Indian uprising against the Spaniards. In their rebellion against European domination the brothers claimed to be incarnations of the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. The rebels were eventually arrested by the Inquisition.
- "Fire-bow" - Juana's grandfather compares the Council of Music (for the study of art, astronomy, medicine, literature and history) founded by the poet-emperor Nezahualcoyotl, c.1428, to its contemporary, the Florentine Academy of the Medicis.
- "Snake Woman" comprises a series letters to Sor Juana from the Mexican savant Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora - mathematician, astronomer, historian, collector and interpreter of Aztec codices. Don Carlos writes from the jungle where he and a group of Franciscans have discovered a remote village in which many of the ancient practices survive. The chapter roughly parallels the ground-breaking ethnographic work of a few distinguished Churchmen such as Sahagún and Durán. (Mentions: syncretism, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Aztec cosmology, eucharistic rites, native herbology and technologies, comparisons of ancient Egypt with America, a lost codex concerning Cortés's translator Malintzin.)
- There exists a suite of chapters that establish links - poetically, rather than by argumentation - between the decline and fall of the Aztec empire and that of Spain, a decline apparent in the Spanish dominions by the end of Sor Juana's lifetime. By 1692, the Valley of Mexico seemed almost to be falling beneath the spell of the same uncanny events that had ushered in the destruction of great Tenochtitlan. Comets, eclipses, flood, blight, infestations, strange births, rebellion. One such chapter is Sor Juana's letter to her friend, the scientist Carlos de Sigüenza: "Feeding the Sun".