Preface: the Expressions of Deafhood Project
This online multimedia site, HeART of Deaf Culture: Literary and Artistic Expressions of Deafhood, is designed to be a visual textbook for Deaf Cultural Studies programs which can be utilized in a variety of courses. Along with a history/overview section, the Project is organized into major categories of artistic and literary works: ASL literature (such as poetry, folklore, storytelling, and ABC stories), English literature (including poetry, prose, and short stories), Deaf Theatre (including performance and Deaf plays), Deaf visual art, and Deaf cinema. In-depth interviews with scholars and artists are also included. Each section contains English text summaries/translations of these interviews and other materials in ASL. Most of the ASL literary and Deaf cinema works do not have translations in order to preserve their artistic authenticity and to honor the creators’ request.
As a Deaf Cultural Studies visual textbook, instructors can sample the different genres in an introductory Deaf Cultural Studies course. Additionally, extensive material in each genre may be used for specialized courses in Deaf history, ASL literature, English literature, Deaf Visual Art, Deaf theatre, and Deaf cinema. Because it is often labor intensive for instructors to find materials about the Deaf experience and these materials are often not readily available for students to access outside of the classroom, we have sought to compile a collection of top quality works about the Deaf experience. It is our hope that the materials can be used for several different courses and will become part of the students’ permanent personal libraries.
We have been extremely fortunate in this endeavor as many of the works reproduced here and commentary about them has been the result of the great generosity of Deaf literary, visual and performing artists as well as educators. At the same time, we have had to accept a great number of limitations, which have prohibited us from being able to share all the wonderful artistic expressions we have found related to the Deaf experience. It is our earnest hope that this Expressions Project will serve as an inspiration for the creation of new works representing and examining Deafhood.
The Expressions of Deafhood Project is intended to encourage an examination of those artistic and literary works that specifically address the Deaf experience. Of course, there have been many important works by notable Deaf writers, performers, and artists that do not address the Deaf experience or transmission of the essential characteristics of Deaf culture. While range of content and themes in artistic expression by Deaf people is truly valuable, many fall outside the scope of this project. For those seeking a broader view of the arts, a number of other outstanding publications exist such as Deaf Artists in America: Colonial to Contemporary by Deborah Sonnenstrahl and Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon by Cynthia Peters. These texts are comprehensive resources related to visual art and literature by Deaf individuals, and include works conveying a wide variety of themes.
As with the arts of other cultural groups, these various artworks have served as keepers of the culture, transmitting the language, values, norms of behavior, and traditions of Deaf people. Hence, the ARTS often capture and represent the heart of Deaf culture.
The views, opinions, and statements expressed in this project by individual commentators, artists and their works are strictly those of the individual(s). They may or may not agree or conform with the personal views and opinions of the producers/editors and do not imply an endorsement by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The copyright of artistic works used in this project remains with the artist(s), her/his estate, and/or the production company in which the works appear.
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart”
Grateful thanks is expressed to the many generous artists, poets, performers, and writers (those still creating and those who have passed on) whose work appears in this project:
Won Suk Chung
Tony Landon McGregor
Betty G. Miller
ASL Literary Artists:
John B. Hotchkiss
Ella Mae Lentz
English Literary Artists:
Alison L. Aubrecht
John Lee Clark
Guie Leo Deliglo Cooke
Donald A. Gruskin
Leo M. Jacobs
Adele M. Jewel
Aaron Weir Kelsone
J. Schulyer Long
James Frederick Meagher
Kristi B. Merriweather
Margaret Prescott Montague
Robert F. Panara
Warren Milton Smaltz
Thomas S. and James P. Spradley
Mary Herring Wright
Performers, Playwrights, and Theatre companies:
Thomas K. Holcomb
J. Charlie McKinney
Patrick “Pax” McCarthy
Mary Beth Miller
Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf
Flying Words Project
Lights On! Deaf Theatre
The National Theatre of the Deaf
National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts Department and Faculty
Show of Hands Theatre
Wayne Betts, Jr.
National Association of the Deaf
George W. Veditz
Wayne Betts, Jr.
John Lee Clark
Ella Mae Lentz
Kristi B. Merriweather
Betty G. Miller
Special thanks to….
The Blessings Bookclub (Jackie Schertz, Patrick Graybill and Dorothy M. Wilkins)
The Christie Kinfolk
The Durr-Jacobs Clan
Alan Hurwitz and his team (Don Beil, Karen Hopkins, Jeff Porter)
Zoe and Noah Durr Jacobs
NTID’s Department of Cultural and Creative Studies
….and of course, our students
Credits for the HeART of Deaf Culture Project
Many thanks to our team:
Cathy Clarke (interactive DVD designer)
Alan Cutcliffe (design for marketing)
Don Feigel (camera and studio)
Stephen Jacobs (advisor)
Ruthie Jordan (interview editing)
Susan Murad (marketing)
Joan Naturale (librarian/researcher)
Joseph Pietruch (interview DVD programmer)
Brian Thuringer (portrait artist)
Simon Ting (interactive DVD programming)
Center on Access Technology (Redesign Team)
Dorothy M. Wilkins
The following individuals, organizations and companies have granted us permission to use works in this project:
Frances Eaton for permission to use Clayton Valli’s works
William E. Hanson for permission to use Guie Deliglio Cooke’s works
Ruth C. Hoffman for permission to use Poetry in the Palm of Your Hand documents
Miriam Lerner for permission to use her raw interview of Ella Mae Lentz, videotaped by Don Feigel from the Heart of the Hydrogen Jukebox and for permission to use footage from the 1987 ASL Poetry Conference
Don Read for permission to use Dorothy Miles’ works
Susan Rutherford/DEAF Media for permission to use clips from American Deaf Culture: The Deaf Perspective
Adele Wiggins for permission to use excerpts from Julius Wiggins’ work
American School for the Deaf Archives
Creative Arts Television
Forest Books/Deaf Worlds
Gallaudet University Archives
Gallaudet University Library
Gallaudet University Press
Harvard University Press
National Association of the Deaf
Sign Media Inc.
Utah Valley State College
Visual Anthropology Review
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