Titba & the Invention of the Unknown

The Salem witch trials were a miserable shit show, but Tituba’s ingenuity, subterfuge, and resistance was extraordinary. My essay about her testimony is now up at The Public Domain Review in their Conjectures series. While writing this essay I became fascinated by the power a story can have to create an oppressive power structure and also to disrupt one:

“Glamour, grammar, and grimoire all share the same root. The Inquisitors imagined in one testimonial after another that they saw the transformation from person to demon before their eyes, even as they clung more fiercely to the power in the illusion they held about themselves, that they were not the ones conjuring such nightmares. It was Goodwife Sibley who asked Titiba to perform that old English spell with bread, dirt, and urine to ease the suffering of the poor afflicted child Betty, but that moment glimmered back in court as Titiba’s idea, her spell, her fault.”

You can read the the complete essay here.

Published by Kathryn Nuernberger

Kathryn Nuernberger's latest books are THE WITCH OF EYE (Sarabande), an essay collection about witches and witch trials coming out in February 2021, and RUE (BOA, 2020), a collection of poems about plants historically used for birth control and pissed off feelings about patriarchal bullshit. The End of Pink (BOA 2016) won the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her collection of lyric essays is Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past (The Ohio State University Press, 2017). A recipient of fellowships from the NEA, American Antiquarian Society, Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, H. J. Andrews Research Forest, She teaches in the creative writing program at University of Minnesota. Recent work appears in 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Paris Review, The Southern Review, and Waxwing.

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