Abstract

Abstract:

This essay asks why, in William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper,” the injured child calls himself happy. Reading Blakean joy in the context of the myth of the “happy slave,” I argue that Blake thwarts the reader’s tendency toward pity, critiquing a sentimental humanitarianism that demands groans, tears, and sighs as evidence of injustice. Blake’s refusal of this logic dislodges happiness from consent and hints at a new joy linked to agency, opacity, and resistance. The essay turns to texts by Langston Hughes and Jamel Brinkley to trace the afterlives of Blake’s poem in later accounts of racialized feeling.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 519-552
Launched on MUSE
2020-06-12
Open Access
No
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