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By revisiting the Burke/Paine debate through an ecocritical lens, this book recovers a social ecology that resides within the conservative and regionalist texts of the Romantic period. I have not attempted to make arguments about Romanticism as a whole, or even the entire political or literary careers of Burke or the other authors addressed in this book, since those authors held remarkably protean political views throughout their careers. Rather I have located texts from a number of genres — political philosophy, poetry, regional novels, natural history, and agricultural periodicals — that manifest a conservative, conservationist reaction to modernity in order to establish a genealogy of the conservative social ecology that transpires within the Romantic period. E.P. Thompson argues: “We shall not ever return to pre-capitalist human nature, yet a reminder of its alternative needs, expectations and codes may renew our sense of our nature’s range of possibilities.”1 While my exploration of Romantic conservatism may not offer a road map for the future, one of the “alternative codes” revealed by the conservative critique of liberal individualism can be found in the way that it locates our everyday habits and practices within a continuing, intergenerational narrative, one that begins in the distant past and continues into the future.
KeywordsRegionalist Text Romantic Period Social Ecology Locate Text Alternative Code
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