Subscribe

SLS CD

Archives

SLS History

Submissions

Advertising

Editorial Board

Press Home

Volume Eight: Issue Four

Summer 2008

ARTICLES
“Life and Deaf”: Language and the Myth of “Balance” in Public History

Jean Lindquist Bergey

Abstract

The Power of Deaf Poetry: The Exhibition of Literacy and the Nineteenth-Century Sign Language Debates

Jennifer Esmail

Abstract

Lydia Huntley Sigourney and the Beginnings of American Deaf Education in Hartford: It Takes a Village

Edna Edith Sayers and Diana Gates

Abstract

BOOK REVIEW
Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman, Jennifer L. Nelson, and Heidi M. Rose

Petra Kuppers
ABSTRACTS
“Life and Deaf”: Language and the Myth of “Balance” in Public History

This article chronicles the protest to draft plans for an exhibition on Deaf history organized by Gallaudet University. Jean Bergey, director of the History through Deaf Eyes project, analyzes documents from letters of concern and offers context on the politics of public presentation of Deaf community history.

Back to the Top

The Power of Deaf Poetry: The Exhibition of Literacy and the Nineteenth-Century Sign Language Debates

This article argues that poetry written by nineteenth-century British and American deaf poets played an important role in the period’s sign language debates. By placing the publication of this poetry in the context of public exhibitions of deaf students, I suggest that the poetry was mobilized to publicly defend the linguistic and intellectual capacities of signers and the right of deaf people to sign. These signing poets valued signed languages and offered a counternarrative to the oralists’ construction of signers as intellectually and linguistically restricted because of the properties of signed languages. Furthermore, because writing poetry in English required both English fluency and the use of abstraction in language, the genre was a suitable battleground for refuting oralists’ claims about the limitations of signed languages and their users.

Back to the Top

Lydia Huntley Sigourney and the Beginnings of American Deaf Education in Hartford: It Takes a Village

The establishment of deaf education in the United States has traditionally been seen as the heroic act of one inspired hearing man, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. As Paddy Ladd writes in Understanding Deaf Culture, this is the “ ‘Grand Narrative,’ where Deaf communities are constructed solely as the individual end product of a lineage of distinguished hearing educators” (2003, 88). More recently, with the establishment of Deaf studies as an academic discipline, credit is increasingly given to Laurent Clerc, the deaf Frenchman from whom T. H. Gallaudet learned to sign and who came to America with Clerc to help establish the nation’s first school for deaf children in Hartford, Connecticut. This article argues that these two men would never have been called on to play the roles they did without the earlier and necessary contributions of Lydia Huntley Sigourney. Before Gallaudet and Clerc enrolled their first pupil, Alice Cogswell, in 1817, Lydia Huntley, under the patronage of the wealthy Daniel Wadsworth and with the support of both of Alice’s parents, had taught the little deaf girl to read and write English. The Cogswells, the Wadsworths, and the Wadsworths’ protégée, Lydia Huntley, formed a group of what Ladd terms “laypeople,” people related by blood, friendship, and community who, though they lacked any sort of professional training, nevertheless came together and rolled up their sleeves to enable Alice’s education. This article investigates Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s role in the founding of American deaf education, her lifelong contacts with the deaf school and its pupils after her own retirement from teaching, and her later erasure from Deaf history.

Back to the Top