Cover image for Deaf American literature : from carnival to the canon
Deaf American literature : from carnival to the canon
Peters, Cynthia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Gallaudet University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
vii, 217 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Based on the author's thesis, George Washington University, 1996.
Format :


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HV2471 .P38 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Peters (English, Gallaudet University) connects American Sign Language (ASL) literature to the literary canon with the archetypal notion of carnival as the counterculture of the dominated. She recognizes similar forces at work in the propagation of ASL literature, citing the Deaf community's long tradition of literary nights and festivals such

Author Notes

Cynthia L. Peters is Associate Professor and Introductory English Coordinator in the English Department at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

An extensive reworking of Peters's Ph.D. dissertation, this work still has rough edges rather than the smooth narrative style of a more polished writer. For example, the author's heavy reliance on the critical work of Mikhail Bakhtin comes through in frequent and repetitive quotation from his work. Peters does a better job of explicating individual literary productions than of presenting her theory of the carnivalesque in Deaf American literature. As such, the author's exploration of the storytelling tradition and orality of Deaf literature will make readers think about literature in a broader way; recognizing that in Deaf culture literature has a performance aspect that must be analyzed as deeply as the words and phrases signed. Most importantly, Peters brings readers to the realization that Deaf literature is a fusion of culturesDhearing and nonhearingDin much the same way that the literary traditions of other "minority groups" provide insight into a culture within the larger American literary tradition. While the book could benefit from tighter editing, such as an introduction to a "minority literature," this work does provide valuable insight into an under-analyzed form of cultural expression. Recommended for academic libraries. Karen E.S. Lempert, "Facing History and Ourselves," Brookline, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Documenting the evolution of American Sign Language (ASL) literature from "oral" to "literary" form, Peters has produced a truly seminal work of tremendous value to a variety of readers outside the Deaf community itself: sociologists, linguists, and those in the comparative literature field. The author begins by establishing a comparison with the interplay between the populace and the feudal hierarchy in the carnival of medieval history. A prominent theme in the study is the ability of Deaf literature to cross class lines in the Deaf community, thereby empowering the minority culture. Peters establishes comparisons with a variety of mainstream literary genres, from vaudeville to the works of James Joyce and Jack Kerouac. She emphasizes the Deaf culture's internal heterogeneity as it coexists with the common experience of the marginalized minority group member. The potential effect of the splintering of the Deaf community under the current trend toward inclusion in mainstream society is brought up as a danger to the future of the carnival environment. Specific topics treated include the oral tradition in Deaf literature, the cultural tradition of literary night, Deaf theater, written works and the effect of polyglossia on them, poetry, and the evolution of Deaf literature into a more static literary canon through videotape. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. A. G. Sidone Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Chapter 1 Is There Really Such a Thing as Deaf American Literature?p. 1
Chapter 2 Carnival: Orature and Deaf American Literaturep. 17
Chapter 3 Deaf Carnivals as Centers of Culturep. 32
Chapter 4 The Oral Tradition: Deaf American Storytellers as Trickstersp. 52
Chapter 5 Literary Night: The Restorative Power of Comedic and Grotesque Literaturep. 78
Chapter 6 Deaf American Theaterp. 96
Chapter 7 Islay: The Deaf American Novelp. 121
Chapter 8 Poetryp. 147
Chapter 9 From Orature to Literature: The New Permanence of ASL Literaturep. 173
Chapter 10 Conclusionp. 201
Indexp. 207