Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Carolyn Marvin

Abstract

This dissertation explores the ways ableism maintains itself in the latter 20th century U.S. through public dramas of the body staged as rituals of endurance that employ the marathon suffix, the -thon. The project focuses on some of the most legible, popular, and innovative -thons of the past several decades – the telethon, walkathon, danceathon, and hackathon – and uses archival and interview methods to trace the interlocking political agencies that make the -thon a potent cultural nexus. We offer that -thon rituals mediate notions of charity, independence, and pity not simply through speech and representation but through the management of the collective and conspicuously effortful body. In the end, we propose a way of thinking about the breath as an analytic, connecting the valences of the word “aspiration” so that we might imagine other, just aspirations.

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