A critical look at Blake’s “Little Black Boy”

This paper by Egyptian academic Abdelnaeim Ibrahim Awad Elaref examines Blake's complex attitudes to race.

Volume 33, issue 62 of the Journal of Qena Faculty of arts includes an article by Abdelnaeim Ibrahim Awad Elaref, "Dismantling Otherness or Empowering Racism: William Blake’s Little Black Boy Reconsidered":

This paper examines William Blake's poem "Little Black Boy" through the lens of deconstruction theory. It aims to uncover the underlying contradictions and power dynamics within the poem and the socio-cultural context of 18th-century British society. While the poem ostensibly challenges racial hierarchies and advocates against the oppression of marginalized communities, this study argues that it inadvertently reinforces systemic prejudice. Through a comprehensive text analysis, including linguistic choices, metaphoric expressions, and paradoxical elements, the paper reveals Blake's deep-rooted racism and prejudice. The literature review explores various scholarly perspectives on the poem's treatment of racial otherness, highlighting the debate between challenging stereotypes and unintentionally perpetuating them. By engaging with differing viewpoints, this paper encourages a nuanced understanding of Blake's work within the broader discourse on race and representation in literature. Ultimately, it seeks to shed light on the complexities of Blake's poem, emphasizing its potential for resistance and transformative possibilities while questioning the extent to which it successfully dismantles prevailing notions of racism and otherness.

Abdelnaeim Ibrahim Awad Elaref is a Lecturer in the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, South Valley University.

This paper is available at the Journal of Qena Faculty of Arts. (Open Access.)