Irene Lara


Working from the perspective of decolonial feminism, this essay critiques works that view Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) as a symbol of resistance to eurocentrism, as represented in the character of Prospero. I focus on the literary figure Sycorax, the racialized, sexualized and witched mother of Caliban, because the celebration of Caliban as a symbol of subaltern resistance in Latin American/Latino studies has led to her discursive erasure or marginalization. I critically trace appropriations of Caliban, as well as Miranda (Prospero’s daughter), that silence Sycorax. Fundamentally urging the construction of a “literacy of Sycorax,” this essay explores the eurocentric reluctance of writers and critics to seriously address issues of spirituality—particularly “feminine” and racialized spirituality—that are negatively coded as magic or superstition within the western modern-colonial imagination. I challenge Latin American/Latino, American, Women’s, and Literary studies to consider what it means to position oneself alongside Sycorax—or the racialized, sexualized, spiritually powerful woman of color other that she represents—in order to learn from her occluded tongue. As I argue, the literacy of Sycorax speaks to a third space beyond the oppositional cursing tongues of Caliban and Prospero. Here lies the prospect of healing internalized fear and loathing about “feminine” and racialized spirituality within ourselves and others.