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Social Sciences > Deaf and Disability Studies

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Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community Cover

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Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community

Joseph Christopher Hill

In a diverse signing community, it is not unusual to encounter a wide variety of expression in the types of signs used by different people. Perceptions of signing proficiency often vary within the community, however. Conventional wisdom intimates that those who learned at an early age at home or in school know true basic or standard American Sign Language. Those who learned ASL later in life or use contact or coded signs are considered to be less skillful Joseph Christopher Hill shows in Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community various contradictions in the use of signed languages. Hill’s new study explores the linguistic and social factors that govern such stereotypical perceptions of social groups about signing differences. Hill’s analysis focuses on affective, cognitive, and behavioral types of evaluative responses toward particular language varieties, such as ASL, contact signing, and Signed English. His work takes into account the perceptions of these signing types among the social groups of the American Deaf community that vary based on generation, age of acquisition, and race. He also gauges the effects of social information on these perceptions, and their evaluation and descriptions of signing that departs from their respective concept of a signing standard. Language Attitudes concludes that standard ASL’s value will continue to rise and the Deaf/Hearing cultural dichotomy will remain relevant without the occurrence of a dramatic cultural shift.

Language in Hand Cover

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Language in Hand

Why Sign Came Before Speech

William C. Stokoe

In Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech, William C. Stokoe begins his exploration of the origin of human language with a 2400-year-old quote by Democritus: “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” Stokoe capitalizes upon this simple credo in this far-ranging examination of the scholarly topography to support his formula for the development of language in humans: gesture-to-language-to-speech. Intrinsic to this is the proposition that speech is sufficient for language, but not necessary. Chance brought human ancestors down from the trees to the ground, freeing their hands for gesture, and then sign language, a progression that came from the necessity to communicate. Stokoe recounts in Language in Hand how inspiration grew out of his original discovery in the 1950s and ’60s that deaf people who signed were using a true language with constructions that did not derive from spoken English. This erudite, highly engaging investigation calls upon decades of personal experience and published research to refute the recently entrenched principles that humans have a special, innate learning faculty for language and that speech equates with language. Integrating current findings in linguistics, semiotics, and anthropology, Stokoe fashions a closely-reasoned argument that suggests how our human ancestors’ powers of observation and natural hand movements could have evolved into signed morphemes. Stokoe also proposes how the primarily gestural expression of language with vocal support shifted to primarily vocal language with gestural accompaniment. When describing this transition, however, he never loses sight of the significance of humans in the natural world and the role of environmental stimuli in the development of language. Stokoe illustrates this contention with fascinating observations of small, contemporary ethnic groups such as the Assiniboin Nakotas, a Native American group from Montana that intermingle their spoken and signed languages depending upon cultural imperatives. Language in Hand also presents innovative thoughts on classifiers in American Sign Language and their similarity to certain spoken languages, convincing evidence that speech originally copied sign language forms before developing unrelated conventions through usage. Stokoe concludes with a hypothesis on how the acceptance of sign language as the first language of humans could revolutionize the education of infants, both deaf and hearing, who, like early humans, have the full capacity for language without speech.

Language in Motion Cover

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Language in Motion

Exploring the Nature of Sign

Jerome D. Schein and David A. Stewart

This enjoyable book first introduces sign language and communication, follows with a history of sign languages in general, then delves into the structure of ASL. Later chapters outline the special skills of fingerspelling and assess the the academic offshoot of artificial sign systems and their value to young deaf children. Language in Motion offers for consideration the process required to learn sign language and putting sign language to work to communicate in the Deaf community. Appendices featuring the manual alphabets of three countries and a notation system developed to write signs complete this enriching book. Its delightful potpourri of entertaining, accessible knowledge makes it a perfect primer for those interested in learning more about sign language, Deaf culture, and Deaf communities.

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Legal Rights

The Guide for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

The National Association of the Deaf

The new, revised, fifth edition of Legal Rights offers in easy-to-understand language the latest state and federal statutes and administrative procedures that prohibit discrimination against deaf and hard of hearing people, and any others with physical challenges. It includes complete information on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, new laws for hearing aid-compatible telephones, the new Rehabilitation Act regulations that ensure access to electronic and information technology, and how recent Supreme Court rulings will affect people who wear hearing aids. This outstanding resource also explains new requirements for federal buildings and other new structures to provide full access. Recent additions to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are described, as are the ways public schools can meet new acoustical standards for classrooms. Legal Rights covers the entire spectrum of communication issues for deaf and hard of hearing people, from the new rules about interpreters in federal courts to the latest developments regarding relay services. It also lists those states that are leaders in ensuring access and equal rights to people with disabilities, making it the most complete source of legal information for deaf and hard of hearing people now available.

Lend Me Your Ear Cover

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Lend Me Your Ear

Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness

Brenda Jo Bruggemann

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.

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Lessons in Laughter

The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor

Bernard Bragg, as signed to Eugene Bergman

To succeed as an actor is a rare feat. To succeed as a deaf actor is nothing short of amazing. Lessons in Laughter is the story of Bernard Bragg and his astonishing lifelong achievements in the performing arts. Born deaf of deaf parents, Bernard Bragg has won international renown as an actor, director, playwright, and lecturer. Lessons in Laughter recounts in stories that are humorous, painful, touching, and outrageous, the growth of his dream of using the beauty of sign language to act. He starred in his own television show “The Quiet Man,” helped found The National Theatre of the Deaf, and traveled worldwide to teach his acting methods.

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Literacy and Deaf People

Cultural and Contextual Perspectives

Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Editor

This compelling collection advocates for an alternative view of deaf people’s literacy, one that emphasizes recent shifts in Deaf cultural identity rather than a student’s past educational context as determined by the dominant hearing society. Divided into two parts, the book opens with four chapters by leading scholars Tom Humphries, Claire Ramsey, Susan Burch, and volume editor Brenda Jo Brueggemann. These scholars use diverse disciplines to reveal how schools where deaf children are taught are the product of ideologies about teaching, about how deaf children learn, and about the relationship of ASL and English. Part Two features works by Elizabeth Engen and Trygg Engen; Tane Akamatsu and Ester Cole; Lillian Buffalo Tompkins; Sherman Wilcox and BoMee Corwin; and Kathleen M. Wood. The five chapters contributed by these noteworthy researchers offer various views on multicultural and bilingual literacy instruction for deaf students. Subjects range from a study of literacy in Norway, where Norwegian Sign Language recently became the first language of instruction for deaf pupils, to the difficulties faced by deaf immigrant and refugee children who confront institutional and cultural clashes. Other topics include the experiences of deaf adults who became bilingual in ASL and English, and the interaction of the pathological versus the cultural view of deafness. The final study examines literacy among Deaf college undergraduates as a way of determining how the current social institution of literacy translates for Deaf adults and how literacy can be extended to deaf people beyond the age of 20.

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Mad at School

Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life

Margaret Price

A very important study that will appeal to a disability studies audience as well as scholars in social movements, social justice, critical pedagogy, literacy education, professional development for disability and learning specialists in access centers and student counseling centers, as well as the broader domains of sociology and education. ---Melanie Panitch, Ryerson University "Ableism is alive and well in higher education. We do not know how to abandon the myth of the 'pure (ivory) tower that props up and is propped up by ableist ideology.' . . . Mad at School is thoroughly researched and pathbreaking. . . . The author's presentation of her own experience with mental illness is woven throughout the text with candor and eloquence." ---Linda Ware, State University of New York at Geneseo Mad at School explores the contested boundaries between disability, illness, and mental illness in the setting of U.S. higher education. Much of the research and teaching within disability studies assumes a disabled body but a rational and energetic (an "agile") mind. In Mad at School, scholar and disabilities activist Margaret Price asks: How might our education practices change if we understood disability to incorporate the disabled mind? Mental disability (more often called "mental illness") is a topic of fast-growing interest in all spheres of American culture, including popular, governmental, aesthetic, and academic. Mad at School is a close study of the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture. Investigating spaces including classrooms, faculty meeting rooms, and job searches, Price challenges her readers to reconsider long-held values of academic life, including productivity, participation, security, and independence. Ultimately, she argues that academic discourse both produces and is produced by a tacitly privileged "able mind," and that U.S. higher education would benefit from practices that create a more accessible academic world. Mad at School is the first book to use a disability-studies perspective to focus specifically on the ways that mental disabilities impact academic culture at institutions of higher education. Individual chapters examine the language used to denote mental disability; the role of "participation" and "presence" in student learning; the role of "collegiality" in faculty work; the controversy over "security" and free speech that has arisen in the wake of recent school shootings; and the marginalized status of independent scholars with mental disabilities. Margaret Price is Associate Professor of English at Spelman College.

The Madwoman and the Blindman Cover

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The Madwoman and the Blindman

Jayne Eyre, Discourse, Disability

Edited by David Bolt, Julia Miele Rodas, and Elizabeth J. Donaldson

This breakthrough volume of critical essays on Jane Eyre from a disability perspective provides fresh insight into Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel from a vantage point that is of growing academic and cultural importance. Contributors include many of the preeminent disability scholars publishing today, including a foreword by Lennard J. Davis. Though an indisputable classic and a landmark text for critical voices from feminism to Marxism to postcolonialism, until now, Jane Eyre has never yet been fully explored from a disability perspective. Customarily, impairment in the novel has been read unproblematically as loss, an undesired deviance from a condition of regularity vital to stable closure of the marriage plot. In fact, the most visible aspects of disability in the novel have traditionally been understood in rather rudimentary symbolic terms—the blindness of Rochester and the “madness” of Bertha apparently standing in for other aspects of identity. The Madwoman and the Blindman: Jane Eyre, Discourse, Disability, resists this traditional reading of disability in the novel. Informed by a variety of perspectives—cultural studies, linguistics, and gender and film studies—the essays in this collection suggest surprising new interpretations, parsing the trope of the Blindman, investigating the embodiment of mental illness, and proposing an autistic identity for Jane Eyre. As the first volume of criticism dedicated to analyzing and theorizing the role of disability in a single literary text, The Madwoman and the Blindman is a model for how disability studies can open new conversation and critical thought within the literary canon.

Making Life Work Cover

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Making Life Work

Freedom and Disability in a Community Group Home

Jack Levinson

Group homes emerged in the United States in the 1970s as a solution to the failure of the large institutions that, for more than a century, segregated and abused people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Yet community services have not, for the most part, delivered on the promises of rights, self-determination, and integration made more than thirty years ago, and critics predominantly portray group homes simply as settings of social control.
 
Making Life Work is a clear-eyed ethnography of a New York City group home based on more than a year of field research. Jack Levinson shows how the group home needs the knowledgeable and voluntary participation of residents and counselors alike. The group home is an actual workplace for counselors, but for residents group home work involves working on themselves to become more autonomous. Levinson reveals that rather than being seen as the antithesis of freedom, the group home must be understood as representing the fundamental dilemmas between authority and the individual in contemporary liberal societies. No longer inmates but citizens, these people who are presumed—rightly or wrongly—to lack the capacity for freedom actually govern themselves.
 
Levinson, a former group home counselor, demonstrates that the group home depends on the very capacities for independence and individuality it cultivates in the residents. At the same time, he addresses the complex relationship between services and social control in the history of intellectual and developmental disabilities, interrogating broader social service policies and the role of clinical practice in the community.

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