CANCELLED: ‘John Clare’s “haunts and homes”’

This seminar has been postponed to MT22

This paper will ask what John Clare’s pervading interest in haunting, the spectral, and superstition has to do with his environmental imagination. Although his poetry and prose continue to draw attention for his close and careful eye, writing often with the precision of the naturalist, Clare is equally at home in the fanciful and the fearful. Whilst Alan Bewell draws fruitful attention to the ghostly as a mode in which Clare clings to the endurance of his local environment in the face of devastating change, I am more interested in the strange affective charge of everyday encounters where his poetry flickers between the fancied and the real. As the poet who wrote that ‘Bushes and trees the spirits of nature haunt ye and are glad’, Clare had a keen sense of the relationship between fear and pleasure, and of how haunting captures at once an experience of habitual familiarity and deep estrangement. I will explore how this mixed affective mode might helpfully complicate some current ecocritical vocabularies that seek to articulate the nature of human and non-human relations.