Recasting the Salem witchcraft trials in light of Walter Benjamin’s theses on historiography, this paper revisits the question of history by examining ways in which Tituba is dis/con-figured as the subject of American history in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. Both stories of persecution revolve around the figure of Tituba, a slave from the Caribbean to whom the beginning of the witch trials is attributed, as the nodal point of different modes of representing the Salem history. The telos in Miller’s drama coincides with the subject-formation of Proctor as the legitimate inheritor of American history from the Puritan civilizing mission to the Cold War Manichean worldview. Miller’s reaffirmation of the American myth is problematic because it ends up reproducing the same oppressive ideology it proposes to criticize by displacing its contradictions onto peripheral figures. Condé begins from this periphery, collecting pieces from disparate historical and cultural records into a collage of Tituba’s story, which does not reproduce, but instead ruptures, the narrative of progress. Condé captures history not as linear but sedimented, and Tituba does not progress to identify with the American telos but re-articulates the sum total of its ideology.
"Tituba, “Dark Eve” in the Origins of the American Myth: The Subject of History and Writing about Salem."
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