SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 63

ASL Literature Byrne be true for other single-authored works in ASL. This does not mean that The Hitchhiker is obsolete as it continues to have its own value and function. For one thing, folklore allows anybody to tell or re-tell a piece while it is a different matter for a single-authored work (as it would be difficult to duplicate and needs to be studied for how it is told artistically). Should there be a study of ASL folklore, students will need to have the opportunity to view different versions of The Hitchhiker through videotape for study. This is where the students will learn that a narrative may vary (among signers) yet preserve itself at the same time, which is crucial for understanding the nature of the folklore tradition in general. A Comprehensive Definition for ASL Literature At this point, it becomes clear that ASL literature is real. The fact that ASL literature is subject to scholarly study and publications through articles and books (e.g., Bahan, 1992; Bauman, Nelson, & Rose, 2006; Brueggemann, 2009; Byrne, 1996; Christie & Wilkins, 1997; Frishberg, 1988; Kuntze, 1993; Lane et al., 1996; Marsh, 1999; Ormsby, 1995; Peters, 2000; Rose, 1992, 1994; S. Supalla & Bahan, 1994a, 1994b; Valli et al., 2011) is encouraging. Rose (1994, p. 155) explained that “[a]s ASL literature joins the canon of world literature, scholars and artists need to ensure that this literature in a visual-spatial mode establishes its own criteria for what constitutes quality”. A comprehensive definition would thus be a good start. Of particular importance is the issue that there are some ASL works on the market that appear to be of questionable quality and misrepresent deaf culture (S. Supalla, 2006). There are seven known definitions of ASL literature developed by scholars and they are in need of a critical review. The definitions are as follow: Table 1 Existing Definitions of ASL Literature Sources Existing Definitions of ASL Literature Byrne (1996, p. 49) The term ‘ASL literature’ includes not only stories in ASL but also ASL poetry, riddles, [humor], and other genres of a ‘through the air’ literary tradition. ASL literature is not English literature translated into ASL but is comprised of original compositions that have arisen from the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of culturally [d]eaf people, and have been passed on by ‘hand’ (through ASL) from one generation to another. Like most languages without a written form, ASL has a literature that has been passed down and shared within generations in a face- to-face manner. And like most languages having a rich ‘oral’ literary tradition, the storytellers/poets of ASL have a respected and leading role in the nurturing and growth of ASL literature. According to [Peter] Cook, the basic ingredients of ASL literature include not only the building blocks and grammar of ASL, but also miming and gestures that exploit the visual medium. Thus, in much the same way that the poetry of nonsigned languages use sound play and rhyme, ASL poetry uses visual play and sign rhymes. Christie & Wilkins (1997, p. 58) SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 63