By Martha Stoddard Holmes
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Extra info for Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture
Further, it both defines the world as a place of emotional excess and attempts to transform that excess, through plotting, into a particular kind of social order. 4 Differences of the body-biological sex, performed gender, skin color, bodily signs interpreted as ethnic or class identity, and those visible variations from perceived norms of function and configuration we term "impairment," "defect," or "disability"-are evoked as the core of character. Melodrama codes them with reference to the flow of vision and places them within a dynamic of looking and knowing (or failing to know).
F. Rayner's The Dumb Man of Manchester (1837). Blind characters are central to James Kenney's The Blind Bay (1807), George Dibdin Pitt's Belinda the Blind; or, the Stepmother's Vengeance (1845);John Wilkins's The Blind Wife (1850), and the numerous English adaptations ofD'Ennery and Cormon's Les deux orphelines (1874). Melodramatic representations of speechlessness and other disabilities are historically rooted in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century censorship of theatrical performances. Royal patents in England and France permitted a limited number of theaters to perform those "legitimate" plays that used spoken dialogue; thus consolidation of an "illegitimate" theater depended on the entrepreneurial development of former folk and popular entertainment traditions for their capacity to evade official restrictions: dumb show, pantomime, harlequinade, ballets, spectacles ...
Henriette: Yes, blind and alone! ) Alone in Paris, without money, without help, wandering through the streets, sightless, homeless, wild with despair. (Bursts into tears. ) What will become of her? ) She is blind! Gentlemen, do you hear me? She is blind! local analysis. What kinds of characters and plots show up often-or never? If certain disabled figures are indeed melodramatic, what purposes does the emotional excess they carry serve in the plot and in the larger culture? What is compelling about thinking of them on the terms melodrama offers us-emotional excess, visual display, and clear plot resolutions?