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ENGL 432: Literature & Magic: Romance

Activity: Contextualizing Magic in I, Tituba

Creative works are produced within specific historical, cultural, social and intellectual contexts. The more you know about the contexts of a specific work, the better you'll be able to analyze and interpret it. Approach your research as a means for providing information to readers that will help them understand, analyze, or evaluate the text. 

In this activity, we will use tertiary and historical sources to analyze the role of magic in Maryse Condé's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. 

Use the following encyclopedia articles to gather background information on Obeah. What is mentioned in all/most of the entries? What additional sources do the subject encyclopedias point you to? 


Explore the primary sources below with your table group and respond to the following questions.

  1. How do these sources depict colonial attitudes towards obeah and other African inspired religious practices? When were some of the first laws against obeah passed in the Caribbean region? Why was obeah criminalized?
  2. Using the narratives from the Obeah Histories site, Freedom to Believe, and information from the Caribbean Religious Trials database, describe the variety of offenses or charges related to obeah.
  3. What types of penalties and punishments were enslaved Africans in the Caribbean subjected to if accused of (and prosecuted for) practicing obeah? How did these and corresponding attitudes towards obeah shift over time?
  4. How could these sources help you analyze the role of magic in Condé's novel?