SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 64

ASL Literature Gibson (2000, pp. 9-10) Gibson & Blanchard (2010, p. 24) Marsh (1999, p. 269) Peters (2001, p. 130) Rose (1992, p. 26) Byrne ASL has a literature of its own that has been passed down from one generation to the next by culturally [d]eaf people. It is conveyed in a visual-spatial dimension. It shares similar elements and functions of any literature in any language. For [d]eaf children, it is an important building block that presents them with opportunities to learn language, knowledge, values, morals, and experiences of the world around them. It also provides them with the bridge to English and other literatures. ASL Literature exists in two forms; 1) through the air and 2) on videotapes. ASL has a literature of its own that has been passed down from generation to generation by the ASL community. It shares similar elements and functions of any literature in any language. For children that use ASL, it is an important foundation that presents them with language, heritage, and experiences of the world around them. ASL also provides them with a bridge to English and other literatures. ASL literature exists in two formats: live and on video. [The definition of ASL literature is] signed expressions of enduring interest. [V]ernacular ASL literature is more of an ‘art for a people’s sake’ than an ‘art for art’s sake.’ The literature in the vernacular is largely a collective, ‘orally’ (via sign language) transmitted body of performative works. Although ASL works are increasingly recorded or even composed on videotape, many [d]eaf American storytellers, like the storytellers of old, still travel about and render stories and other vernacular art forms to comparatively small groups of people, frequently as part of some occasion such as a social gathering, ceremony, or festival. Drawing on a traditional stock of stories and other ASL art forms, an ASL artist can choose a story, art form, or even an original piece by another ASL artist, make individual modifications, and, at one time or another and in front of one or another group of viewers, render his or her own variant. An ASL storyteller, in telling a story to a group of viewers, does not just recite but performs to keep the interest and attention of the viewers, enacting one or more characters in a kind of semi-play, semi-mime, all the while conveying mannerisms, appearances, attitudes, and emotions. ASL literature refers to texts created in ASL by [d]eaf people, whether the pre-videotape folklore forms or the new body of single- authored works preserved on videotape. The multiple ASL literature definitions listed above have produced a number of insights, but some require clarifications. One example is the description of ASL literature as vernacular as it relates to Bahan’s telling of Bird of a Different Feather on the stage as opposed to its videotaped edition. Bahan has done the same narrative in both settings. To be sure, there may be some variations when he performed the narrative on different occasions or from stage to stage, but the quality is consistentl