By Sheila C. Moeschen

ISBN-10: 0472029274

ISBN-13: 9780472029273

ISBN-10: 0472118862

ISBN-13: 9780472118861

Acts of Conspicuous Compassion investigates the connection among functionality tradition and the cultivation of charitable sentiment in the USA, exploring the targeted 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 actually TV’s severe Makeover: domestic version, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the subtle options hired by means of a number of charity activities answerable for making prepared benevolence captivating, interesting, and doubtless uncomplicated.

Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new approach 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 present as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings provides upward push to a extra complex and nuanced dialogue of the participation of the disabled neighborhood within the charity undefined, of the possibilities afforded through functionality tradition for disabled humans to behave as severe brokers of charity, and of the hot moral and political concerns that come up from using functionality method in a tradition with elevated appetites for voyeurism, exhibit, and intricate spectacle.

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65 In lieu of vocal speech, Myrtillo manufactures a type of palpable silence or gap that authorizes the able-­bodied character to speak for the afflicted. This aperture is extended to the spectator, affording the same type of invitation to the able-­bodied patron, implicating the audience member within the events of the mise-­en-­scène. Myrtillo, like Julio, was a role performed by breeches actresses. In both cases, the actresses’ femininity remained palpable despite their costuming. And in both cases, each character’s disabilities are associated with feminized traits of weakness and passivity.

Social historian David Wagner argues that by drawing parameters around their own perceptions of acceptable behaviors, reformers manufactured distinctive categories within which to cast the Other. ”12 People with disabilities occupied a more complicated designation in the early decades of the nineteenth century. These individuals encapsulated an array of cultural meanings that ranged from pitiful “creatures” to living abominations of God’s will. Within this environment that bred social unease over the presence of diverse communities, reformers took on the at times daunting task of inviting citizens to sympathize with and emotionally as well as materially invest in those threatening and, in the case of the deaf/dumb, mystifying populations.

Philosopher Adam Smith devotes a lengthy section to the notion of sympathy in his work The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). For Smith, sympathy is an effect produced by the spectator’s capacity to imaginatively transfer places with a suffering individual.  . ”24 The person bearing witness to the spectacle of calamity, unable to literally experience the “torments and agonies” on display, may only approximate distress. ”25 The onlooker is simultaneously absorbed and detached from the scene and as a result is able to exercise cognitive and emotional self-­awareness.

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Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices by Sheila C. Moeschen


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