Storytelling is not strictly related to a person’s ability to speak. In American Sign Language Literature, an intricate and well-developed story can be told without one sound. This unique way of storytelling allows for a new experience for “listeners” and readers alike. In American Sign Language storytelling, each signed word holds great depth and meaning. Unfortunately, this facet of literature is often overlooked.
American Sign Language has always stood out to me as a beautiful and intricate language. By being exposed to ASL through my Deaf family members, I have always been fascinated by this amazing way of communicating. Studying English Literature at Kansas State University and ASL/ Deaf Studies at Johnson County Community College has ignited a great curiosity within me to focus on learning more about equal and accurate representation in the arts, particularly literature.
The College of Arts and Sciences at K-State offers a variety of scholarship opportunities; when I came across the Mark Chapman Scholars Program description online, I was immediately excited at the thought of possibly doing a research project. This program offers students funds to work on a proposed summer project, as well as tuition funds for the upcoming year. Through receiving a Mark Chapman Scholarship, I have the amazing opportunity to dive directly into Deaf literature and ASL literature and poetry.
I believe that understanding and focusing on Deaf and ASL literature will allow for individuals, along with myself, to learn about an underrepresented group in America. A someone who is passionate about public humanities and wants to work in a public service position, gaining a greater knowledge of different walks of life (particularly the Deaf community for this project) is vital to serve all areas of a community. Literature can provide people to gain a new perspective that would have been otherwise lost. Therefore, literature can form bonds between people.
A book that I will be reading, and one that I think anyone can enjoy, is Train Go Sorry written by Leah Hager Cohen. This book discusses the connection and mis-connection of language between the hearing and the Deaf. I will also be watching a variety of video texts, such as Bird of a Different Feather. My primary research will center around the different literature that I will be purchasing. With the Mark Chapman Scholarship, I will also be taking two classes; one class will be an ASL course and the other will focus on Deaf culture. One of the final goals for my proposed project will be to go to the National Deaf Life Museum in Washington D.C., and the Museum of Deaf History, Arts, and Culture in Olathe, Kansas. Both of these places have exhibits that highlight important parts of Deaf culture and art. In Washington D.C, I am especially looking forward to the Then and Now exhibit, which focuses on the changes that have occurred at Gallaudet University (which is the only university in the world with curriculum designed for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals).
Hopefully, by the end of my research, I will be able to focus on a particular story that highlights the unique and invaluable perspectives that ASL/ Deaf literature can provide to people. With these results, I plan to publish this research in order to share my findings with a larger community of people!
— Meghan Luttrell (BA ’23)