Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature

Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature

Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature

Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature

Synopsis

This unique collection of essays, accompanied by a pioneering DVD, at last brings a dazzling view of the literary, social, and performative aspects of American Sign Language to a wide audience. The book presents the work of a renowned and diverse group of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing scholars who examine original ASL poetry, narrative, and drama. The DVD showcases the poems and narratives under discussion in their original form, providing access to them for hearing non-signers for the first time. Together, the book and DVD provide new insight into the history, culture, and creative achievements of the deaf community while expanding the scope of the visual and performing arts, literary criticism, and comparative literature.

Excerpt

When in 1960 it became clear that American Sign Language (ASL) is indeed a language, something more than a language emerged from underground. a language does not just provide a community of users with a way to communicate; it preserves their memories, encapsulates their hopes and desires, and safeguards their values—all the more so when its use involves art. a people’s language and culture are inseparable, so this volume exploring asl literature is doubly welcome.

It brings to the public eye some of the cherished gems of asl literature, but it does more: it shows how inseparable are a visual language and the role of the body in its expression. Movement as dance is of course linked with music in Western culture, but at the cost of more and more separation from language. asl poetry reunites dance and artistic utterance; it shows that there is a nonparadoxical meaning in the term silent music and reminds us that rhythm stems from movement, not from sound. the present volume helps to explain this phenomenon and much else that make sign language literature unique and able to enrich our cosmopolitan twenty-first-century culture.

William C. Stokoe 1919–2000

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