By Sheila C. Moeschen
Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the connection among functionality tradition and the cultivation of charitable sentiment in the US, exploring the unique practices that experience developed 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 fact TV’s severe Makeover: domestic variation, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the delicate innovations hired by means of quite a few charity events chargeable for making equipped benevolence beautiful, fascinating, and possible uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new means of accounting for the legacy and involvement of disabled humans inside of charity—specifically, the articulation of functionality tradition as an essential theoretical framework for discussing problems with embodiment and identification dislodges formerly held notions of the disabled latest as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings supplies upward thrust to a extra advanced and nuanced dialogue of the participation of the disabled neighborhood within the charity undefined, of the possibilities afforded by way of functionality tradition for disabled humans to behave as serious brokers of charity, and of the hot moral and political matters that come up from utilizing functionality method in a tradition with elevated appetites for voyeurism, reveal, and intricate spectacle.
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Additional info for Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices
The play depicts the pathetic Fenella as a perpetual supplicant, subjected to the will of both Nature and the other characters. Her supreme sacrifices throughout the play, culminating in her catastrophic demise, reiterate a sense that the logical outcomes of marriage and motherhood associated with the able-bodied are not possible for those with afflictions. ”51 Moreover, Fenella’s spectacular demise excuses spectators from considering the social and moral implications of allowing this “improbable love affair” to meet its logical conclusion.
Dramatizing Distress 37 What these melodramas lacked in cultural sensibility toward difference they made up for in instructional potency. Ultimately, a powerful representational and literal dynamic was established on stage that positioned the benevolent patron and the disabled person in distinctive roles. Deaf and Dumb flattened out these respective figures so that they become entrenched in seemingly static positions, forming a dichotomy meant to facilitate benevolence as the only appropriate action.
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. Accounts of the deaf/dumb and blind appearing in mass periodicals reflected and strengthened these representations. In an article published in the American Monthly Magazine in 1830, the writer waxes poetic on the devastating situation of blind individuals: The blind are the most unfortunate. ) writing about disabled people during this time helped to humanize afflicted individuals in their rhetoric, which presented them as capable of feeling and emitting emotions.
Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices by Sheila C. Moeschen