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 exact 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 version, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion charts the delicate options hired by way of quite a few charity events chargeable for making geared up benevolence pleasing, intriguing, and probably uncomplicated.
Sheila C. Moeschen agents a brand new method 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 latest as passive, “objects” of pity. This paintings provides upward thrust to a extra advanced 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 serious brokers of charity, and of the hot 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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Extra info for Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices
M. Milner’s melodrama Maseniello; or, The Dumb Girl of Portici (1823), the deaf/dumb character Fenella meets an astonishing end when, despairing over the betrayal by her lover, Alfonso, and the death of her brother, Masaniello, she commits suicide by throwing herself off a balcony and into the sea. 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.
Smith’s treatise also raises questions of authenticity and contrivance in his insistence that affect may be attributed to external rather than internal or innate mechanisms. If a person produces emotion comparable to the type and degree of distress he witnesses, it follows that this spectacle may be inflated, exaggerated, or completely false in order to capitalize on an individual’s sympathies. Concordantly, it is also possible for the benevolent patron to simply read and understand the signs of need and to produce an expected response.
Theories of sentiment also hinged on the notion that these feelings were innately generated by various events, encounters, depictions, or exhibitions. ”26 Emotion does not spring from the sight of tears alone, but rather from the context of the source of grief. Smith’s distinction is an important one when it comes to the production of benevolence. The narrative framework for the emotion’s source must be legible; it is this intelligence that enables the potential benefactor to, as Smith earlier notes, “imaginatively identify” with the person in need.