McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Deaf, Disability, Performance, Women
In this thesis, I examine the relationship between deafness, women, and performance in Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God. The play was a massive popular success, both in its run on Broadway and its movie adaptation. Deafness and deaf people had never been so visible in American hearing culture. More importantly, the play coincided with civil rights movements by people with disabilities, which culminated in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disabilities, including deafness, were called into being as part of a national identity. These movements posited self-determination but ultimately relied and thrived on a communal and relational sense of identity. I argue that the play challenges individualistic modes of identification through its protagonist, Sarah, a deaf woman whose "voice" is always translated through the audience. The play overtly and politically calls for a reconceptualization of American identity along the lines of deaf or disability and female identity theories, which typically value community and interdependence over individualism. Moreover, the genre amplifies this call for community.
Crilley, M. (2013). "individual yet as one": Performing Deafness and Performing Community in Mark Medoff's Children of a Lesser God (Master's thesis, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/443