Spectral Evidence

Spectral Evidence

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Authors: Nancy Bowen and Elizabeth Willis

Publisher: Litmus (2024)

Spectral Evidence: The Witch Book is the result of a meeting between Elizabeth Willis, descendent of one of the convicted and executed “witches” of the Salem witch trials, and Nancy Bowen, descendent of Samuel Sewall, a prominent judge in the trials. Spectral Evidence pairs each of the 46 stanzas of Willis’s “The Witch Poem” with a drawing or collage by Bowen, whose iconographic style moves deftly between humor and seriousness, echoing the affective range of Willis’s poem: “With a glance, she will make rancid the fresh butter of her righteous neighbor.” / “A witch may cry out sharply at the sight of a known criminal dying of thirst.”

The book includes a conversational afterword by the authors and Litmus editor, E. Tracy Grinnell, in which they explore connections between the collaborative project, with its roots in the Salem witch trials, and the broader interwoven contexts of current U.S. politics, misogyny and state violence, capitalist and colonial power structures, and cultural practices of resistance and repair.