This article proposes that eighteenth-century and Romantic-era accounts of dreams offer a useful model for understanding the phenomenon of enclosure, or what Marx famously labeled “so-called primitive accumulation.” Rather than a historical event or a set of particular laws, enclosure can be understood as a process by which gendered labor and criminalized mobility, two forms of what Marxist critics call “non-work,” became integral features of capital accumulation over the course of the Romantic period. This article pursues an analogy between what John Hunter defined as the “ludicrous anachronisms” of dreams and such forms of “non-work” as they appear in Mary Robinson’s 1791 poem “The Maniac.” Framed as an opium-induced dream that enables Robinson to share a psycho-physiological state akin to the wanderer “mad Jemmy,” Robinson forges relations between the poet and Jemmy that complicate any straightforward or sympathetic identification. Instead, her use of rhetorical indirection and inversion establishes analogies between the two through the effects of enclosure, highlighting the ambivalent ways in which subjects came to be indirectly related to one another through an historical inversion of their means of subsistence into conditions of vulnerability.

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