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National ASL Literature Conference collection

Identifier: RITDSA-0101

Scope and Contents

The National ASL Literature Conference collection contains programs, schedules, clippings and DVD's related to the First National American Sign Language (ASL) Literature Conference held at National Technical Institute for the Deaf in October 1991. Also included is a Peter Cook Interview on the Hydrogen Jukebox Parts 1 and 2, and a copy of the program book. The following are abstracts of three presentations given at this conference in 1991 and have been digitized for viewing:

In "African American Sign Language in Visual Theatre", Michelle Banks shows a videotape of a performance in African American Sign Language. Following the video, she leads a group discussion focusing on how to use African American Sign Language in theatre and the importance of preserving Black Sign Language or African American Sign Language and Black Deaf culture.

In the film "What is ASL Literature, Anyway?", Dr. Barbara Kannapel moderates a lively panel discussion of the definition of literature. Different viewpoints are offered-for example, Bonnie suggests a framework of two strands of literature-Deaf Literature (written format) and Sign Language Literature with subcategories within each. Gil Eastman describes two different types of theatre or drama such as Theatre of the Deaf/Theatre for the Deaf, which differ in performer composition and audience. Clayton Valli believes this construct doesn't work for poetry, as it plays with language, and prefers the term ASL poetry; not poetry of/for the Deaf. Lynn Jacobowitz describes her experience writing plays and would like to create Deaf-centered ASL plays that reflects the Deaf experience. She will be videotaping kindergarten Deaf children signing stories to expose them to ASL literature. Sam Supalla explains that Deaf literature and ASL literature are two separate bodies of work and are taught as separate classes. The problem with the term Deaf literature is it doesn't give equal weight to Sign Language literature and is missing that part. There is some discussion of Black Literature, African American Studies, Women's Studies, Native American Studies and whether these constructs fit the Deaf community's definition. Valli suggests looking into these programs to see if their rubrics could be adapted. Bernard Bragg then suggests using a big 'D' Deaf Literature and Sign Language Studies. He agrees with Bonnie that focusing on ASL literature is too limiting--doesn't take into account Deaf culture, history, beliefs, etc. Sam suggests the categories Deaf Studies and Sign Language Studies with subcategories of literature under each. At the end, all agreed more discussion on these concepts is needed to further clarify the distinctions of literature.

After answering questions related to his previous night’s performance of "The Deaf Mute Howls," Bruce Hlibok shares his experiences working with oral Deaf teenagers in NYC. Hlibok worked in a mainstream program encouraging the students to tell their stories. These writings were later developed into a play Deaf Watch: Silence! For most of this session, Hlibok shares the writing and stories created by the students he worked with. Simon Carmel describes ASL and number stories in Deaf Folktales, starting at 49:37.

In Lois Bragg's presentation, "ASL Literature's Cultural Milieu: Audience Expectations and Participation," Bragg examines one of the key features of ASL literature: the interaction between the audience and performer.


  • Creation: 1991


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

The National ASL Literature Conference was held at National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. on October 10-13, 1991. It was co-chaired by Laurie Brewer, Kenny Lerner, Karen Christie and Patti Durr. The conference featured several performers and presenters, including Jim Cohn, Bonnie Kay Kramer, Ben Bahan, Bruce Hlibok, Lois Bragg (Edna Sayers), Simon Carmel, Michele Banks, and Bernard Bragg.


0.1 Folder(s)




The collection contains programs, schedules, clippings and DVDs containing films documenting speakers at the First National American Sign Language (ASL) Literature Conference held at National Technical Institute for the Deaf in October 1991.


Collection materials are arranged by type.

Physical Location

C.S. Mid-range, Shelf 419 in RIT/NTID DSA Ephemera box

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number(s): 2014:029; 2014:027

Related Materials

Second National ASL Literature Conference collection, RITDSA.0064

Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Poetry collection, RITDSA.0027

National Deaf Poetry Conference program and recordings, RITDSA.0042

Robert Panara deaf videotape collection, RITDSA.0031

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

Robert Panara deaf videotape collection, RITDSA.0031

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Lisa Witt in February 2014.

National ASL Literature Conference collection
RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive
Lisa Witt
20 February 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA