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John Clare and Enclosure Again: Against Simplification

Clark, Timothy



Michael Demson

Regina Hewitt


This paper offers a revised overview of the now distortedly over-familiar topic of John Clare and enclosure, qualifying the emerging critical truism that this human injustice was also a fierce assault on biodiversity, one which can be immediately assimilated into contemporary anxieties about the global biosphere. A championing of Clare in these moral/ecological terms has become rather glib, even evasive of our own complex material and ethical entrapments in the Anthropocene. Enclosure in Clare’s context was undoubtedly a decisive step in the incorporation of food-production into an unjust market/capitalist economy, a dispossession making possible the industrial agriculture of later centuries, but it was hardly the creation of some ecological waste-land. Rereadings of Clare’s “The Mores” and the poem known as “The Fens” suggest that the accounts of enclosure given there by Clare himself, or ascribed to him, are not as fully assured or as knowing as they might seem to be.

Publication Date 2024-09
Deposit Date Jun 13, 2024
Publisher Edinburgh University Press
Pages 238-257
Series Title Edinburgh Critical Studies in Romanticism
Book Title Law, Equity and Romantic Writing: Seeking Justice in the Age of Revolutions
Chapter Number 12
ISBN 9781399500371
Keywords John Clare, enclosure, justice, biodiversity, food-production, capitalism, Anthropocene
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Jun 1, 2023