Economies and Poetics of the Forest
“To the uncultivated eye a forest appears simply as uncultivated land—an expanse of woodland and heath which has been left ‘wild’ ... But a forest has its own complex economy.” —E.P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters
In commemoration of E.P. Thompson’s centenary this year and the continued relevance of his work, this roundtable solicits work considering the economies and poetics of the forest. We seek papers combining Thompson’s grounding in historical detail with broader, theoretically informed accounts of nature, land use, and culture; improvement and capital accumulation; traditional knowledges and common right. How do the particularities of the sociocultural life and legal-economic administration of the forest encourage us to rethink, develop, or complicate our notions of eighteenth-century political economy, property relations, literary production, industrialization, colonialism, and the environment? Example topics include (but are certainly not limited to) the farcical Tory huntsmen of the Spectator; the allegorical forest’s revival as Gothic landscape in Radcliffe’s novels; the imperial mast oaks of Pope’s Windsor Forest or locodescriptive “forest-walks” of Thomson’s Seasons; the ecological devastation of the 1703 Great Storm documented in Evelyn’s Silva; the fugitive peripheries of West Indian maroon settlements or British Honduras’s mahogany-driven Baymen communities; or reflections juxtaposing the Black Acts of the 1720s with state violence against land defenders in the 2020s. All approaches are welcome, and we especially invite papers considering what might be called the “poetics” of the forest, or how literary texts and genres give form to the changing social meaning of the forest and its uses.
Keywords: Cultural Studies, Ecology/Eco-humanities/Environmental Studies, Economy, Race and Empire, Poetics