By Martha Stoddard Holmes
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Extra info for Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture
W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm (1921), which stars the Gish sisters. 5 Louise and Henriette, sisters by adoption, are the orphans of the title. When these pretty country girls travel to Paris to seek a cure for Louise's blindness, they are almost immediately separated by the henchmen of an evil marquis bent on raping Henriette. Henriette is saved by De Vaudray, a good aristocrat who then falls in love with her, but Louise is taken in by the begging impostor La Frochard, who forces her to sing in the streets for alms.
While the Lancet writers must eventually return to human anatomy, professionals in less prescriptive disciplines often completely submerge bodily, economic, and other material details with discussions of the feelings that physical impairment is supposed to produce. " There are many benefits to this emotional construction of ability and disability. In the context of social institutions and the rhetoric that defines them, constructing physical disability as primarily a feeling state Melodramatic Bodies 29 can minimize the importance of the material circumstances that surround all disabilities, and maximize the importance of personal agency while minimizing the need for social change.
36 Fictions of Affliction Feeling Bodies: Women, Disability, Melodrama Writing of melodrama in the twentieth century, Tania Modleski asserts that [i]ntuitively ... we ally melodrama with the feminine insofar as it is a genre quintessentially concerned with emotional expression. Women in melodrama almost always suffer the pains of love and even death ... while husbands, lovers, and children remain partly or totally unaware of their experience. Women carry the burden offeeling for everyone. (331) Michael Booth confirms the historical reach of Modleski's statement, asserting that "a cardinal rule of melodrama is that at some point, usually early in the play, the heroine begins to suffer" (24).