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Lend Me Your Ear

Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness

Brenda Jo Bruggemann

Publication Year: 1999

Brueggemann’s assault upon this long-standing rhetorical conceit is both erudite and personal; she writes both as a scholar and as a hard-of-hearing woman. In this broadly based study, she presents a profound analysis and understanding of this rhetorical tradition’s descendent disciplines (e.g., audiology, speech/language pathology) that continue to limit deaf people. Next to this even-handed scholarship, she juxtaposes a volatile emotional counterpoint achieved through interviews with Deaf individuals who have faced rhetorically constructed restrictions, and interludes of her own poetry and memoirs. The energized structure of Lend Me Your Ear galvanizes new thought on the rhetoric surrounding Deaf people by posing basic questions from a rhetorical context: How is deafness constructed as a disability, pathology, or culture through the institutions of literacy education and science/technology, and how do these constructions fit with those of deaf people themselves? The rhetoric of deafness as pathology is associated with the conventional medical and scientific establishments, and literacy education fosters deafness as disability, both dependent upon the premise that speech drives communication. This kinetic study demands consideration of deafness in terms of the rhetoric of Deaf culture, American Sign Language (ASL), and the political activism of Deaf people. Brueggemann argues strenuously and successfully for a reevaluation of the speech model of rhetoric in light of the singular qualities of ASL poetry, a genre that adds the dimension of space and is not disembodied. Ironically, without a word being spoken or printed, ASL poetry returns to the fading, prized oral tradition of poets such as Homer. The speech imperative in traditional rhetoric also fails to present rhetorical forms for listening, or a rhetoric of silence. These and other break-out concepts introduced in Lend Me Your Ear that will stimulate scholars and students of rhetoric, language, and Deaf studies to return to this intriguing work again and again.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

I can hardly begin to acknowledge the support it has taken to make this book. The listening, giving, sharing, enabling, questioning, caring, cheerleading, patience, attentiveness, and willingness that these institutions, organizations, and individuals have offered me has meant and still means much. ...

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Chapter 1 Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness: Discovering All the Available Means of Persuasion

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pp. 1-20

As far as anyone knows, I have been deaf from birth; I have been a rhetorician about that long, too. Some days I do not call myself "deaf"—some days I'm "just hard-of-hearing," the term I grew up with, and other days I'm quite "hearing." The decisions I (and others) make about naming myself from day to day, ...

Part I Deafness as Disability

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Chapter 2 Deafness, Literacy, Rhetoric: Legacies of Language and Communication

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pp. 23-49

"Deafness is a big country," writes Owen Wrigley in one ofhis chapter titles in The Politics of Deafness, as he seeks to ethnographically document the "land," the "absent anchor," of the people who belong to the culture he writes about—the culture of the Deaf:1 For all its nonexistence in chartable, tangible terms, ...

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Chapter 3 “It’s So Hard to Believe That You Pass”: A Hearing-Impaired Student Writing on the Borders of Language

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pp. 50-80

This case study of Anna addresses the processes, the language, of literacy.1 I examine literacy as both contextualized and cognitive processes, as both a social restriction and an individual accomplishment; I also examine how the concept and label of "remediation" is primarily a social construct.2 ...

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Interlude 1: On (Almost) Passing

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pp. 81-100

In this passing, I spent a good deal of time watching—an act for which I had, as a hard-of-hearing person, lifelong experience and impeccable credentials—watching myself, watching the students I was doing case studies of, watching everything in the ethnographic scene of Gallaudet Deaf culture before me. ...

Part 2 Deafness as Pathology

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Chapter 4 Diagnosing Deafness: The Audiologist’s Authority

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pp. 103-144

Deafness has long been the subject of and subjected to, rehabilitation. Rhetoric has long been aligned with—if not often the very voice of—rehabilitation: as a "formal act or declaration" meant to "restore" someone "( ... degraded or attainted) to former privileges, rank, and possessions," and furthermore ...

Interlude 2: Interpellations: “Call to A. G. Bell” and “Assessment of the Speech-Reception Threshold”

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pp. 145-148

Part 3 Deafness as Culture

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Chapter 5 The Coming Out of Deaf Culture: Repeating, Reversing, Revising Rhetorics

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pp. 151-200

Old arguments die hard; rhetoric repeats itself; what looks like a new story is often only the old slightly retold.2 Deaf people are not really so fortunate in this framework, although as is the case with most master narratives and colonial conditions, those who are positioned as fortunate are themselves deaf to ...

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Chapter 6 Words Another Way: Of Presence, Vision, Silence,and Politics in Sign Language Poetry

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pp. 201-236

It is a poetry that Sven Birkerts, popular commentator on the contemporary art, would undoubtedly be puzzled—if not shocked—by as well. For here, as we view a sign language poem, although I will grant that meanings and emotions still parade before us, there is no real "marriage of two elements—sound and sense"; ...

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Interlude 3: Are You Deaf or Hearing?

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pp. 237-260

This question confronted me every day during my five-month-long stay at Gallaudet University in 1991. And although it no longer confronts, it continues to haunt. It was the question I had begun asking myself late in my twenties, years before Gallaudet—the very question that had sent me, searching for answers, ...


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pp. 261-284


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pp. 285-290

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682322
E-ISBN-10: 156368232X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680793
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680793

Page Count: 302
Illustrations: 5 figures
Publication Year: 1999

OCLC Number: 43475885
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Lend Me Your Ear

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sociology of disability.
  • Deafness -- Social aspects.
  • Deaf -- Social conditions
  • Deaf -- Means of communication.
  • Deaf -- Education.
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