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6:6 Monday, June 28, 2004

The Peculiar Misfortune

How the Deaf Elite Lived in the Old South

From Pity to Pride: Growing Up Deaf in the Old South is the latest release from Gallaudet University Press. In it, Hannah Joyner depicts the history of young, wealthy men in the 19th-century South who were barred from high posts because they were deaf. These young Deaf men formed their own societies that, after the Civil War, included deaf northerners. Chapter one, "The Peculiar Misfortune," starts with "In the antebellum American South, the inability to hear was seen by most of society as a great calamity. Southerners did not understand why some people were Deaf, but they sought an explanation in their larger worldview: either 'nature and her caprice' or 'God in His wisdom' had denied the sense of hearing to individuals. Many Americans felt that Deaf people were suffering greatly from their condition. The life of 'the poor mute' was the 'peculiar misfortune' of the 'most unfortunate class of our fellow creatures.' Hearing southerners concluded the 'the condition of the uneducated deaf and dumb [was] lamentable beyond degree.'"

Steven M. Stowe, Associate Professor, History Department at Indiana University and Associate Editor, Journal of American History, praises From Pity to Pride by saying, "This is a book of striking portraits and compelling new history, certain to set a high standard in the fast growing field of disability history and a must-read for students of the South in general."

In this unique and fascinating history, Hannah Joyner depicts in striking detail the circumstances of these so-called victims of this "misfortune" and makes it clear that Deaf people in the North also endured prejudice. She also explains how the cultural rhetoric of paternalism and dependency in the South codified a stringent system of oppression and hierarchy that left little room for self-determination for Deaf southerners. Read more of this historical account in chapter seven, "With the Eyes to Hear and the Hands to Speak", and order From Pity to Pride at a savings of 20% off the regular price.

The journal Linguistics, published by Cambridge University Press, recently extolled Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech, authored by the late William C. Stokoe, known as the father of the linguistics of American Sign Language (ASL). A portion of the journal's review reads "[Stokoe], Professor Emeritus at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, died on April 4, 2000, aged eighty. When he moved to Gallaudet in 1955 to teach English to deaf students, he found that the faculty viewed the signing used by students merely as a limited set of gestures. Stokoe convinced himself that, rather, these signs constituted a fully formed language, what is now known as ASL....Language in Hand is written in a style that will be accessible to a wide non-specialist audience, yet is well-equipped with references to the scholarly literature." Read more about Stokoe's argument that signed language predates spoken language in his preface, and order Language in Hand.

Selected by CHOICE magazine for inclusion in its 39th annual Outstanding Academic Title list, Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices also received considerable attention in a recent issue of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. The reviewer notes, "Cochlear Implants in Children is a well-balanced and comprehensive book and is therefore a particularly valuable addition to the literature on this topic...highly recommend[ed] for teachers, parents, and others." Click here to read the complete review. In Cochlear Implants in Children, authors John B. Christiansen and Irene W. Leigh address the current state of the new technology and provide observations and recommendations for the parents of deaf children as well as the professionals who work with them. To find out more about this title, read chapter five, The Cochlear Implant Center, Surgery, and Short-Term Post-Implant Outcomes, and order Cochlear Implants in Children.

Gallaudet University Press Institute will host the Narrating Deaf Lives: Biography, Autobiography, and Documentary Conference in the late fall. Stay tuned for more details.


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