By Sheila C. Moeschen
Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the connection among functionality tradition and the cultivation of charitable sentiment in the USA, exploring the precise practices that experience advanced to make the plea for charity legible and compelling. From the paintings of 19th-century melodramas to the televised drama of transformation and redemption in truth TV’s severe Makeover: domestic version, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the delicate techniques hired via a number of charity hobbies accountable for making prepared benevolence pleasing, intriguing, and likely uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new means of accounting for the legacy and involvement of disabled humans inside charity—specifically, the articulation of functionality tradition as an important theoretical framework for discussing problems with embodiment and id dislodges formerly held notions of the disabled current as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings offers upward thrust to a extra complex and nuanced dialogue of the participation of the disabled group within the charity undefined, of the possibilities afforded via functionality tradition for disabled humans to behave as severe brokers of charity, and of the recent moral and political concerns that come up from utilizing functionality technique in a tradition with elevated appetites for voyeurism, exhibit, and intricate spectacle.
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Additional info for Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices
Absent from these reports was consideration of the blind person’s humanity or other aspects of their subjectivity. . ”36 What the scientific community elided in terms of the cultural significance generated by afflictions, the social realm supplied by way of literary and artistic renderings of blindness and deafness. Nearly always framed by tragic circumstances, blind and deaf characters inhabited lonely, sorrowful, isolated worlds and exuded correlative emotional qualities such as despair, melancholy, or hopelessness.
The theatrical devices employed by several popular affliction melodramas helped to produce the “signs of distress” outlined in Reid’s essay. In the course of the melodrama, these conventions primed spectators, both emotionally and cognitively, to cultivate benevolence as the appropriate response to what was understood as the pressing problem presented by deaf/dumb and blind communities in the public sphere. A significant example of the way theater made this dynamic explicit and palatable is found in Thomas Holcroft’s melodrama Deaf and Dumb; or, The Orphan Protected (1825).
49 Disabled characters, specifically deaf/dumb and blind youths or adolescents, offered another perspective on the ethics advanced in the melodrama. 50 Within melodramatic plot conventions, disabled characters confronted murderers and thieves; eluded kidnappers; and even found themselves facing danger atop treacherous cliffs, on decrepit bridges, or in the midst of storms and fires. The plot of J. Farrell’s The Dumb Girl of Genoa; or, The Dramatizing Distress 35 Bandit Merchant (1823) involves Julietta, the “dumb girl,” defending herself with a gun and dagger in order to foil a treacherous plot against her life.
Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices by Sheila C. Moeschen