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Second National ASL Literature Conference collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RITDSA-0064

Scope and Contents

Second National ASL Literature Conference collection materials consist of programs for the event. These include the main program, programs for an art exhibit held at the Switzer Gallery, and evening performances at the Panara Theater. Included is a conference schedule and outlines for two lectures: "Metaphorical Structure in Two Lentz Poems" and "Building Blocks of American Sign Language Storytelling." Additions to the collection were made in 2013 and included papers related to the initial proposal for the conference, evaluations from participants, newsclippings, and photographs of the performers at the event. Also of note; the design logo used on all of the conference materials was designed by Tracey Salaway.

The digital material in this collection includes six DVDs with the following performers: Clayton Valli (keynote speaker), Heidi Rose, Julianna Fjeld, Jaine Richards, Patrick Graybill, Zorn, Chris Holt, Brenda Liebman Aron, Ilene Liebman Youngs, Jose Saldana, Missy Victorson, Sam Supalla, Kathy Fraxchineaud, Tina Wix, Jenny Singleton, Peter Cook, Isias Eaton. Please note that these DVDs have been digitized and are available to view online. Please go down to Digital Material and click on the links to view the digitized items.

1. “Nurturing ASL Literature in Its Own Time” (March 29, 1996) - In this keynote presentation, Dr. Clayton Valli shares the findings of his dissertation research on ASL poetics. He provides examples of various types of rhyme schemes found in ASL poetry and describes how meters and lines are analyzed. He performs his poem, COW AND ROOSTER, using it to illustrate handshape rhymes and the stressed and unstressed syllables of ASL signs that create metered lines. Valli closes his presentation encouraging future generations to delve into ASL poetics.

2. “Character Development in ASL Narrative” (1996) - This presentation explores the development of character in ASL narrative, focusing primarily on a story created by Julianna Fjeld and told through the persona of a bag lady. We examine the process by which Fjeld created the bag lady character, and we examine how the elements of language use and theatricality contribute to the creation of character is ASL literature. Through this case study approach, our goal is to begin building a theory which will be applicable to character development in other ASL narratives, poetry, and drama. [Julianna Fjeld performs the story during this presentation].

3. “Process and Product” (March 30, 1996) - In this presentation, Patrick Graybill focuses on the importance of the artistic process in the creation of an ASL literary product. He stresses the need for play-- for the creative freedom absent of rules. He mentions how the inspiration of a poem at the feeling level rises to become an image which is then communicated through space in ASL. The poem resulting sparks a familiar shared experience for Deaf audience members. He mentions the play techniques he uses in creating ASL poems such as sign choices, moving signs in space, balancing left and right hand use and the speed of signs. He closes his presentation encouraging teachers and others to foster language play in their students.

4. “Building Blocks of ASL Storytelling” (1996) - This presentation describes the standard requirements of ASL storytelling which includes at its most basic, a specific form of rhythm and at its most complex, the nuances and climactic pauses that are the key to excellent storytelling characteristics. At the heart of American Sign Language storytelling are the stories themselves that have gone through changes as they are passed down from one storyteller to another over the generations in Deaf families.

5. “Achieving Literacy with Deaf Children: An Examination of American Sign Language Story Structure and the Effects of Storytelling on Language Acquisition” (1996) - This presentation covers an ongoing study on the role of storytelling as a medium for facilitating the needed ASL acquisition with Deaf children. The development of literacy will be discussed based on T-unit length and story coherence in the signed narrative as well as the effects of intervention.

6. “Play with ASL!” (1996) - Peter Cook will demonstrate techniques which help students to expand their potential in creating with ASL. A videotape of student work produced during Cook’s residencies at Lexington and Fanwood schools will be shown. In addition, students from Lexington and Fanwood schools will give a short performance.


  • Creation: 1996

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

The Second National ASL Literature Conference was held at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) from March 28-31, 1996 as a "celebration of the rich cultural and historical traditions" of American Sign Language. The first conference was also held at NTID, five years earlier in 1991. It was co-chaired by Laurie Brewer, Kenny Lerner, Karen Christie and Patti Durr. The second conference was co-chaired by Karen Christie, Dorothy Wilkins and Deirdre Schlehofer. The second conference consisted of workshops, panels, presentations, and performances and included students, teachers, artists, and scholars. Along with NTID, the event was co-sponsored by the University of Rochester and the Rochester School for the Deaf.


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The collection includes programs, schedules, video, and other documentation related to the Second National ASL Literature Conference held at National Technical Institute for the Deaf held March 28-31, 1996.


Collection materials are arranged by type.

Physical Location

Range 75

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number(s): 2010:38; 2014:029; 2022:003

Second National ASL Literature Conference collection was donated to the RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive by NTID faculty member Karen Christie in June 2010, July 2013, and a date unknown but brought to RIT Archives by Joan Naturale in December 2021.

Related Materials

Robert Panara deaf videotape collection, RITDSA.0031

Ruth C. Hoffman collection of "Poetry in the Palm of Your Hand" conference audio-visual recordings, RITDSA.0167

National ASL Literature Conference collection, RITDSA.0101

Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Poetry collection, RITDSA.0027

National Deaf Poetry Conference program and recordings, RITDSA.0042

Unprocessed Addenda

Karen Christie's 1996 Second National ASL Literature Conference binder (2022:003). Binder of materials relating to the Second National ASL Literature Conference in 1996 and a few photocopied materials relating to Deaf literature. Added to the existing collection.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Amy Vilz in December 2011.

Second National ASL Literature Conference collection
RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive
Amy Vilz
21 December 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 01/04/2022: added accession 2022:003. EC

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA