From Carolyn Merchant to Theodor Adorno, historians and critics of capitalist modernity have described its expansion as the story of the lifting of traditional taboos, or inversely as the laying down of a ban on taboo itself such that nothing is to remain off-limits or untouched. Yet, despite the absence of an answering authority to lay down the law and cry “halt,” and perhaps because of it, environmental harm continues to be imagined through the figure of trespass and in terms of an invisible line past which human activity, otherwise compelled by capitalism to limitless accumulation, must not go. At the same time, the more fungible the differences between ecological spheres, the more rigid the enforcement of state and private property lines, so that the discourse of trespass whereby one might hope to prosecute environmental crime in fact criminalizes once permitted commoning practices. This essay seeks to thread a way out of this impasse by turning to passages from John Clare, Rainer Maria Rilke, Charles Baudelaire, and William Wordsworth that map human and animal passing onto seasonal passage and mime the different levels and seasonal periods of permeability and impermeability found in ecological relations. Rather than accept the strict dichotomies of the logic of enclosure, the essay explores how these poets enact and theorize modes of passing in order to renew attention to temporary and seasonally determined forms of impasse and passage.

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