LIQUID ENCLOSURE: WATER, WASTE, AND PROPERTY IN THE LITERATURE OF THE LONG RESTORATION (1650 - 1728)
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Critics often cite John Locke's apple to explain his vision of the transformation of commons into private property, but commentary on his fountains and rivers remains absent. Examined closely, Locke's text reveals that by engaging with fluid figures for property, he evokes and fails to reconcile a revolutionary counter-model for common property that makes impossible his own. This dissertation's first premise is that our commons are too dry. As Michel Serres reminds us, bodies of water resist unity and stability as objects. This extends into the realm of property where its amorphousness baffles the case for private, divisible, self-contained property. English thinkers knew this. This dissertation argues that from Gerrard Winstanley onward, fluvial figures represent the power of the liquid commons as both an object of capitalization and a utopic other to private property. Writers during the transition to capitalism did not forget the commons; yet this much-used trope somehow became invisible to us, and it is the work of this dissertation to restore its place in early modern metaphors of property.