This article provides a genealogy of the architectural figuration of human cognition from the ancient world to Renaissance Europe and, finally, to the American Renaissance where it came to possess a striking cultural and literary potency. The first section pursues the two-fold task of elucidating this archetypal trope for consciousness, both its ancient moorings and its eventual transmission into Europe. The second section shows that three of the most prominent writers of the American Renaissance—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne—engaged this mystically inspired architectonic symbolism, employing far older techno-cultural suppositions about interior space. I thereby offer an account of the intellectual and spiritual heritage upon which Romantic writers in the United States drew to articulate cognitive interiority. These Romantics did more than value creativity in contradistinction to Enlightenment rationalism; they were acknowledging themselves as recipients of the ancient belief in cosmogenesis as self-transformation.
In June 1773 Doña Luisa García de Medina filed a lawsuit against the Spanish colonial government demanding the return of her generous donation to the confraternity of Saint Rosalia in Cuenca (Audiencia of Quito). This dispute provides a clear testimony of the influence of religious devotion and the power of female self-fashioning and agency. Doña Luisa’s piety, her promotion of the cult of Saint Rosalia, and her substantial donation allowed her to establish associations with leading local institutions and shape Cuenca’s sacred landscape and its inhabitants’ religious experience. Doña Luisa’s control of the processional route also identified her oratory as a space for spiritual introspection, self-representation, and social exchange. This article illustrates the importance of humility in the advancement of female agency in the colonial period. This research also proves that the study of religious confraternities supports a more inclusive construction of Spanish American history and shows the impact of female patronage in the civic space.