Finding Deaf Gain: Changing Languages, Changing Lenses, Changing Society
Bart, Edward Henry
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Most literature is analyzed through various lenses, or more accurately, schools of thought informed by life experience and cultural knowledge. Literature created in American Sign is no different than any other literature in spite of it being a visual-spatial language rather than a sound-based language. It requires scholars able to access the Deaf Lens, cognizant of the linguistic and historical context that informed Deaf artists in the creation of their work. This context is embedded in their ASL literature, and often requires scholars to approach their work as the product of a colonized group. Though the Deaf Community does not have land or resources available for the colonizer to take, the colonial narrative can be seen as the closest analogue with which we can identify key ideas that resonate in ASL literature. The most critical aspect is that of resistance to the colonizing impulse that the Deaf Community has experienced for centuries. The questions of identity, language, and Otherness come to the forefront when viewing ASL literature through the Deaf Lens. Analyzing Clayton Valli’s ASL poetry “Dandelions” and “Something Not Right” demonstrates how the Deaf Lens yields deeper insight in how ASL is deployed to create literature uniquely specific to the Deaf Experience. This then allows scholars to recognize problems and means of resistance found in other colonial literature, and by extension, the issues facing today’s society.