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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 particular 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 fact TV’s severe Makeover: domestic variation, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the delicate thoughts hired by way of a variety of charity events answerable for making geared up benevolence eye-catching, intriguing, and possible uncomplicated.

Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new approach 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 identification dislodges formerly held notions of the disabled current as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings supplies upward push to a extra advanced 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 serious brokers of charity, and of the hot moral and political matters that come up from using functionality technique in a tradition with elevated appetites for voyeurism, show, and intricate spectacle.

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Extra resources for Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices

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As affliction melodramas attempt to reorder a world turned chaotic by the presence of difference and immorality; they do so while also shoring up traditional attitudes about gender, class, and physicality. The stylized gesture, sentimental rhetoric, and overwrought spectacle of suffering indicative of the affliction melodrama authorized a way of reading the disabled body that accorded with popular perceptions of affliction in the social sphere. Situated within this type of melodrama, the disabled subject became more than just the physical signifier of sentimentalism, but served 40 Acts of Conspicuous Compassion as the conduit through which benevolence was realized.

Historians of Deaf culture credit the Abbe De l’Epée with inventing and implementing the teaching of sign language in France. 58 The character of De l’Epée operates as an ideal model of charitable sentiment; he is both a spiritual leader and an educator, making him a powerful amalgamation of qualities highly prized in the reform movement going on in the public sphere. Other characters in the play reinforce De l’Epée’s characterization as a selfless charitable savior. ”59 Julio expresses a similar sentiment.

In addition to its evil villains, brave heroes, beautiful heroines, and kind uncles, melodrama featured characters with noticeable disparities. Figures with disabilities, specifically those characterized as deaf/dumb and blind, populated a variety of plays. These plays, distinguished here as affliction melodramas, staged the tragic plight and eventual retribution of the pathetic, physically disabled individual. Adapted from French and British sources and performed throughout the first decades of the nineteenth century, affliction melodramas capitalized on the public’s growing interest in and concern with the situation of hearing-­ impaired and blind people.

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