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Clare's mutterings, murmurings, and ramblings: the sounds of healthClare is valued as a poet of direct communication. His poems are filled with Northamptonshire dialect that fosters an instantaneous connection to his local environment, creating an immediate sense of place though sound. Likewise, Clare’s representations of natural sounds, such as the ‘whewing’ of the pewit, the ‘swop’ of the jay bird as it flies, and the ‘chickering crickets’, have a mimetic quality that creates a direct experience of what he hears.1 Seamus Heaney grouped Clare with what he called ‘monoglot geniuses’, meaning that he had a gift for conveying through poetry a ‘univocal homeplace’ that his readers could understand without necessarily belonging to that place themselves.2 However, this idea of Clare as a poet of such direct coherency is complicated by his madness or, specifically, by his repeated usage of a vocalisation which carries connotations of madness. This essay will consider the ways that Clare represents health and madness at the level of sound, by bringing them into relationship with a mode of speaking that recurs throughout his poetry and prose: his use of muttering. It will suggest that Clare’s poetic investment in muttering and the sub-vocal register as both a personalised, therapeutic mode of self-address, and a way to foster a deep poetic relationship with his natural surroundings, comes to complicate his formal representation of health as a clear ‘strong voice’.
John Clare, herbalism, and elegyDiscussions of Clare’s engagement with botany often trace his fraught relationship with taxonomy, exploring his admiration for common names over the ‘dark system’ of Linnaean classification. This essay expands understanding of Clare’s botanical imagination by considering how he brings his botanical ‘taste’ to bear on the flower as a key figure of elegiac consolation. I refocus attention on his formative preference for pre-Linnaean herbalism and explore how it informs his engagement with elegiac tradition and imagery, especially in relation to Gray’s ‘Elegy’. I attend to how herbalism is brought into relationship with poetic representations of the floral, focussing especially on the connection between Clare’s preference for herbals and Elizabeth Kent’s Flora Domestica. I then discuss ‘Cauper Green’ and ‘The Village Doctress’ (Clare’s most sustained poetic discussions of herbalism) as elegies that try to reconcile the finite temporality of human life with the regenerative life cycles of plants and their flowers.
Palgrave advances in John Clare studiesContributes to ongoing conversations about John Clare's work while offering new perspectives and directions on Clare scholarship, in an accessible writing style Serves as both a useful introduction to Clare and his work for students that are new to it, and a rich resource for scholars already working in the area Essays look at interdisciplinary topics including ecocriticism, environmental humanities, medical humanities, and posthumanism Features essays from established and early career scholars Is comprehensive in its coverage of popular and new topics in Clare studies.