SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 70

ASL Literature Byrne Literature for Use in the United States and Canada. The database is expected to serve as a resource for scholars, educators, performers, and all other interested parties and individuals to have easy and quick access to ASL literature for recreational, pedagogical, and scholarly purposes. There are a total of 443 single-authored works captured in VHS, DVD, and online publications. Of these 443 works, 81 are works of poetry, 15 are works of drama, and 347 are works of prose. The total number of folkloristic works is 41. Discussion As evident in this paper, the taxonomy of genres legitimizes various works as ASL literature. The same holds true for the number of published ASL literary works, which are in the hundreds although the number is lower for certain sub-genres. For example, the prose genre has only one known allegorical work for ASL (which is Bahan’s Bird of a Different Feather). The same holds true for the riddle category (which is David Burke’s Run). While the dramatic growth of ASL literature over the last few decades confirms a large number for the whole body of works, the database still needs more works. The removal of works of translation from the database puts an emphasis on wor ks that authentically originate in ASL. However, the present database will need to be subject to more stringent review based on the comprehensive definition of ASL literature set forth in this paper. Some single-authored works may be removed from the database due to their poor representation of deaf culture, due to the poor language skills of the performer, or due to a lack of literary devices. Occurrences of these deficiencies are expected to be rare, however. Even the ASL literature definition may be subject to modifications to better represent the body of ASL literary works. What is important is that there are now established parameters for what can be called a work of ASL literature. For future research, it is important to explore the question of canonicity for ASL literature. Such a project will help further our understanding of what constitutes quality in ASL literary works. Despite the large number of literary works in the database, it is possible to narrow down to a small number that stand out for study and appreciation (see Bloom, 1994; Brown, 2010; Harris, 1991; Ungureanu, 2011; Wilczek, 2012 for further discussion on how canonicity is pursued for a given language’s literary works). For now, very little is known about what makes an ASL literary work exceptional. Yet, there are quite a few performers or smooth signers who “can weave a story so smoothly that even complex utterances appear simple, yet beautiful” (Bahan, 2006, p. 24). Padden and Humphries (2005) make no direct reference to the ASL Literature Series of Ben Bahan’s Bird of a Different Feather and Sam Supalla’s For a Decent Living as canonical but they praise the storytellers for establishing a standard for ASL literary works. They write: Gradually the poetry and the performances of equally inventive and skilled ASL storytellers like Sam Supalla and Ben Bahan became a new standard for public performance, showing that ASL should become the name of the language of the community, because it had such rich potential. (p. 137) There are two possible approaches for an ASL literary work to be admitted to canonicity. One is to develop a list of canonical qualities to determine which work is canonical and which is not. The ASL Literature Series and other works by exemplary ASL poets such as Clayton Valli and Ella Mae Lentz should serve as a benchmark for what is to be included in the canon. Another SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 70