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 precise 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 truth TV’s severe Makeover: domestic variation, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the subtle techniques hired via a variety of charity pursuits answerable for making prepared benevolence beautiful, intriguing, and likely uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new manner of accounting for the legacy and involvement of disabled humans inside charity—specifically, the articulation of functionality tradition as a necessary theoretical framework for discussing problems with embodiment and identification dislodges formerly held notions of the disabled current as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings offers 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 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
When the two arrive at Harancour, Julio dramatically reveals his familiarity with the estate. ”52 St. Alme, Darlemont’s virtuous and benevolent son, eventually recognizes Julio and confronts his father with the living proof of his misdeeds. 53 The play codes Julio as the indebted recipient of De l’Epée’s benevolence in sentimental conventions communicated through his body and gestures. . ”57 This identification is briefly realized once the artifice of theater makes itself known. Though patrons are able to weep along with Julio and, in doing so, display their own sentimental integrity, they are strategically denied empathy.
44 Melodrama was especially adept at dramatizing the oversimplification of ethical choices and morally transparent characters. Literary theorist Peter Brooks presents a succinct characterization of this aspect of the genre: Melodrama starts from and expresses the anxiety brought by a frightening new world in which the traditional patterns of moral order no longer provide the necessary social glue. It plays out the force of that anxiety with the apparent triumph of villainy, and it dissipates it with the eventual victory of virtue.
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.