SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 58

ASL Literature Byrne Because the scholarly study of ASL literature is relatively young, establishing a list of criteria to create the canonicity of ASL literary works has only recently been discussed but not yet agreed to as a community. Since the publication of Cynthia Peters’ Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon in 2000, Sutton-Spence and Kaneko (2016) appear to be the first to discuss the concept of canon (or canons) explicitly and in depth related to signed language literature, especially folklore. The authors provide definitions for, respectively, general canons of folklore and a signed language canon of folklore. The definition of the former is “collections that are generally accepted as being representative, and are understood to be central examples of folklore, judged ‘the best’ by a community” (p. 40). As for the latter’s definition, “[it] is made up of the sign language folklore that is judged to be the knowledge that is most valued by community members as their folklore” (p. 40). In spite of the authors’ acknowledgment that the last definition is incomplete and that people frequently dispute who has the authority to determine what is canonical and what is not, they state that Stephen Ryan’s 1993 article entitled Let’s Tell an ASL Story suggested that all canonical stories in signed language possess particular elements in common. The elements are as follows: § § § § § § Show the deaf perspective. Inform us in some way about the concerns of the deaf community and its relationship with the hearing world. Increase signing skills (including for second lang uage learners). Increase cultural sensitivity. Teach cultural values. Be good entertainment. (Spence-Sutton & Kaneko, 2016, pp. 40-41) Ryan’s article discussed ASL storytelling techniques, activities, and resources, as well as suggestions for effective storytelling without making reference to the term canon or canons. Sutton-Spence and Kaneko perceived Ryan’s stories as canonical, but the criteria that the authors developed based on Ryan’s article appear to be ambiguous and inadequate. They do not seem as comprehensive as suggested in the newly-created definition for ASL literature by the author of this paper (see pages 65-66). This new definition could be used as a starting point for canon formation for ASL literature. In terms of the different literatures of the world, forming a canon is no easy task due to the varying and disputed perspectives. The definitions of a canon range from the simplest to the most detailed. A simple definition is “a collection of key works of literature” (Wilczek, 2012, p. 1687). M. H. Abrams and Geoffrey Harpham (2015) provide a detailed definition: The canon is the result of the concurrence of a great many (often unexpressed) norms and standards, and among these, one crucial factor has been the high intellectual and artistic quality of the canonical works themselves and their attested power to enlighten, give delight, and appeal to widely shared human concerns and values. (p. 45) It is reasonable to expect that some of the works of ASL literature have the capacity of becoming canonical. This paper's focus is on understanding ASL literature in more basic terms. ASL literature has a number of issues that have not been addressed until now. The issues addressed here center around the handling of: (1) the so-called ASL literary works that have ties to English, SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 58