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ASL Lecture Series DVDs

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RITDSA-0049

Scope and Contents

The ASL Lecture Series DVDs cover a wide variety of subjects including using ASL as an educational tool, tactile ASL, Deaf studies, ASL in films, the Deaf and World War II, and ASL poetry. The following seven lectures have been digitized for viewing:

1. ‘Opening Eyes’: Literature and Literacy Studies (1998) - Two Deaf presenters, Karen Christie, and Dorothy Wilkins, discuss American Sign Language (ASL) Literature, its history, ASL artists, what literacy means, and the connection between literacy and literature.

2. Creating Original ASL Poetry (ca. 1987-88) - Patrick Graybill discusses creating original ASL poetry in this lecture. Before he begins the lecture, he presents an outline of topics he will cover: a history of what he saw as Deaf poetry when growing up, what Deaf poets are doing with original ASL poetry, six features of ASL, performing examples of his poetry and what will happen to ASL poetry in the future. When he grew up in the Kansas School for the Deaf, he saw hearing and Deaf teachers and students reading English poetry which was then translated to ASL. Most of the people writing poetry were born hearing, and then became Deaf, like Robert Panara. He wrote English poetry, such as “On My Deafness” which was then translated it to ASL. Other Deaf poets like Panara are Rex Lowman and Loy Golladay.

3. Semiotics of ASL Poetry: Cynthia Campbell (2000) - Cynthia Campbell shares her research on the semiotics of ASL Poetry, analyzing a seemingly simple poem, Cow and Rooster by Clayton Valli signed by a young girl. She explains that in teaching hearing students ASL they had a difficult time making a transition to using sign language smoothly. Her research question relates to improving the teaching of ASL by asking Deaf people what is considered excellent storytelling or poetry. They were not able to give her examples, so this became part of her research question. She analyzes Cow and Rooster by using some semiotic principles as outlined by 19th century philosopher Charles Sanders Pierce: symbols, icons, and index (as it pertains to ASL). She found rich analysis in this poem: body stance and shift to indicate different characters, handshape patterns of 3 (rooster), Y (cow) and 5 (farm) signed in different spatial areas, and discovered metonymy (icon and index)— and a pattern of in the narrative structure. English text has a different pattern as compared to ASL signs, thus more research is needed to see how Deaf and hearing people process language and if it is different, how to improve teaching of ASL to hearing students.

4. Translation as an Educational Tool (1987) - Patrick Graybill defines the terms translation (to translate meaning from one language to another language), transliteration (spoken message signed very similarly word for word in Signed English), and interpretation (listening to English and interpreting into ASL or watching a signed ASL presentation and rendering it into spoken English) as he begins his presentation. He believes that translation is a powerful educational tool which assist students in comprehending English using ASL, and promotes cultural understanding, appreciation and respect for both languages and cultures. There are challenges in translating cultural information, especially humor, and he gives examples.

5. Relationships between Transcription Systems and Sign Language Analysis (1988) - In this presentation, Dr. Scott Liddell describes the differences between two ASL transcription systems—the popular Stokoe notation system (1960) and the phonetic segmental system. The Stokoe system has been in use by many researchers but there are difficulties in describing the morphology of signs and noting how signs are changed or formed. There are three parts to a sign in Stokoe’s system: location, handshape, and movement. It doesn’t have the flexibility to recognize signs that do not fit this model. The advantages of using the phonetic segmental system is that it has the ability to note the changes in the formation of a sign in a compound sign, numbers and fingerspelled letters are recognized as signs due to movement-hold patterns, inflectional processes, verb agreement, and other grammatical features. He closes the presentation by suggesting there will be future models of sign structure to consider in analyzing ASL in more depth which is important for validating the legitimacy of ASL as a language.

6. Finding Myself as a Deaf Adult (1991) - Clayton Valli is introduced as an instructor in the Department of Linguistics and Interpreting at Gallaudet. He is pursuing Ph.D studies at the Union Institute. The topic of the presentation is about influences on his life and he describes his family background, going to Deaf schools, further education, various employment, using and teaching ASL, developing a stronger identity, and how he discovered poetry.

7. Representations (1996) - Dr. William Stokoe, a researcher who proved that ASL is a language with his 1960 groundbreaking research shares his theory of the evolution of human language. He asserts that sign languages evolved into spoken languages. Stokoe begins his presentation talking about representation-the way concepts or ideas get out so that people can see or hear them. Representation gave us thoughts and helps our thinking. Language exists so we can represent thoughts. The ASL sign ‘building’ is a great example of that. There is the widespread belief that we have a thought, and then give it representation. He argues that representation is what gave us the ability to have thoughts and to think. Thinking and representation developed together, interdependently helping each other.


  • Creation: 1994-2017

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Historical Information: RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive

The RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive document RIT’s central role in educating the Deaf and hard of hearing in the United States and draws from Rochester's significant Deaf community. The main focus of the archive is Deaf culture, Deaf studies, Deaf education, Deaf theater, Deaf artists and Deafness.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of nine colleges at RIT, was established by an act of congress and signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. After an extensive national search, RIT was chosen as the permanent home for NTID, and the first group of students arrived in Fall 1968. This significant archive of primary resources, artwork, videos and books documents the founding and growth of NTID and highlights the many remarkable contributions of Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals affiliated with NTID. The Rochester area enjoys a vibrant Deaf community, and the Deaf Studies Archive represents the first time an effort has been made to preserve some record of this culture.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 document box with other collections)




Collection of American Sign Language lectures on DVD, created, produced, and developed by National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.


Collection dvds are arranged in numerical order.

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

ASL Lecture Series dvds

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Amy Vilz in October 2011.

ASL Lecture Series DVDs
RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive
Amy Vilz
19 October 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA