SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 57

ASL Literature Byrne not stopped instructors from teaching the literary component of the signed language. However, a few decades have passed and it is time to pause and examine ASL literature in terms of legitimacy and quality. In-depth discussions about ASL literature will help affirm its value and improve its quality. This paper discusses four main topics: (1) the relationship between oral literature and ASL literature; (2) a comprehensive definition of ASL literature; (3) the question of translation; and (4) the taxonomy of ASL literary genres. Substantial information and some data come from the author’s doctoral dissertation, which was completed in 2013. This dissertation sought to develop a comprehensive definition of ASL literature and to organize its genres of original literary works. The methodology involved semi-structured interviews of eight deaf ASL users who are experts in the field of ASL and Deaf Studies. The experts had extensive knowledge of ASL literature as well as numerous years of experience teaching ASL language and literature courses. From an original pool of twelve experts, eight were available for interviews. They possessed a range of degrees from the bachelor’s level through the doctoral level and positions ranging from K – 12 educators and administrators to post-secondary faculty and researchers. Interviews were conducted in person or via videophone. All interviews were video recorded. Experts were asked four research questions related to legitimacy and quality of ASL literature. The questions were as follows: 1) At a time when there is increasing recognition of ASL literacy, how should ASL literature be defined? 2) What are the features that characterize ASL literature? 3) What would constitute such a literature (e.g., genres)? To what extent is there a comprehensive taxonomy of genres captured in VHS and DVD publications? 4) What are examples of ASL literary works included in this taxonomy? After collecting and transcribing data from the interviews, a cross-sectional analysis of the interviews was performed using a constant comparison method. The responses were analyzed and placed into categories for comparison. The process of categorizing was done by reading the transcribed text of the interviews, circling common responses, and developing categories for the responses. After completing the categorization process, the common categories were grouped around common responses for each research question. In the end, the experts were asked to read the transcription of their interviews for accuracy and validation. For understanding literature in general, it is worthwhile to consider the work of Roman Jakobson, a member of the Russian Formalism school in the early twentieth century. Originally published in Russian in 1921 by Jakobson and translated from Russian to English by Edward J. Brown in 1973, Jakobson (1973) explained that “the subject of literary scholarship is not literature but literariness (literaturnost), that is, that which makes of a given work a work of literature” (p. 62). The essence of literariness is defamiliarization. “The primary aim of literature…is to estrange or defamiliarize…by disrupting the modes of ordinary linguistic discourse, literature ‘makes strange’ the world of everyday perception and renews the reader’s lost capacity for fresh sensation” (Abrams & Harpham, 2015, p. 142). Kathy Torabi (2010) elaborated, “Defamiliarization causes the audience to confront the object on a different level, elevating and transforming it from something ordinary or practical into work that is considered art” (n.p.). For ASL literature, it is appropriate to expect that literariness and defamiliarization take place with signed language just as it is for spoken languages. As such, ASL students have the opportunity of experiencing a form of art when watching an accomplished signer performing on the videotape. SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 57