SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 62

ASL Literature Byrne to love and cherish the story. The fact that the deaf person was driving in the story serves as a reminder to deaf people that the right to drive was a hard-fought victory according to the historical accounts. In comparison to the narratives in the ASL Literature Series, The Hitchhiker is older with its origins tracing back at least to the time when automobiles were first introduced in the United States and Canada. Carol Padden and Tom Humphries (1988) who are deaf scholars reported on a folktale that has been passed down over hundreds of years in France. The French deaf community shared with them a story of how a hearing priest, the Abbé de l’Epée was ‘lost in the world’ until the time he encountered two deaf girls. This incident is what led to the founding of the world’s first public school for the deaf, and the girls’ signing went on to become what is now known as French Sign Language. The impact as told in the story is not limited to France as its model of deaf education was duplicated in the United States and Canada leading to the rise of ASL. The significance of the French story is best presented by Padden and Humphries as follows: We finally realized that the story is not about the Abbé de l’Epée. Instead it has come to symbolize, in its retelling through the centuries, the transition from a world in which deaf people live alone or in small isolated communities to a world in which they have a rich community and language. This is not merely a historical tale, but also a folktale about the origin of a people and their language. Epée’s movement from the darkness of the night into the light and warmth of the house of the deaf girls is entirely appropriate as a central image in a folktale of origins, not at all unlike folktales of other cultures. (p. 29) With the recent rise of single-authored works in ASL, one cannot help but wonder about this occurrence in light of the folklore tradition in the deaf community. One possible explanation lies in the deaf community’s response to a change in society where ASL instruction started becoming a fixture in academia. This is where financial opportunities become real with thousands of hearing students taking ASL courses each year. Thus, deaf individuals who had a high level of literary skills made the decision to videotape themselves and market their work. Bahan and S. Supalla are good examples, but it is important to note that they continue to do live performances to this day. Hearing individuals who are signers and talented performers jumped in as well. One example is the video production that came out Tomorrow Dad Will Still Be Deaf and Other Stories by Bonnie Kraft (1997), who was born to deaf parents, has native signing skills and a strong affiliation with deaf culture. The impact of video technology must also be noted, for it allows performers to view themselves on the videotape to make changes or improvements until the ‘final version’ has been created (Rose, 1994). Single-authored works in ASL are oral and require memorization just like folklore in the deaf community but may have slight variances from performance to performance, but any work that is videotaped is preserved for posterity. A narrative in the folklore tradition can be changed as it passed from one individual to another. The main idea might remain the same, but any individual can add or delete a segment or expand or de-emphasize an idea. In contrast, once a narrative is recorded on videotape, changes do not occur and the narrative remains the same in the eyes of the audience. The individual who performs professionally is more focused on form or the structure of the work, rather than only on the content matter. This is where the delivery of Bird of a Different Feather and For a Decent Living becomes important as the performers had their distinctive and eloquent styles at play. The same appears to SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 62