SASL Newsletter - Spring 2019 Issue Issue 13 - Spring 2019 | Page 2

SASL Executive Board 2019 – 2022 President Samuel J. Supalla University of Arizona [email protected] Vice President (vacant) Recording Secretary / Newsletter Editor Andrew P. J. Byrne University at Buffalo [email protected] Treasurer Harvey Nathanson Austin Community College [email protected] SASL Journal Editor-in-Chief Jody H. Cripps Clemson University [email protected] Members-at-Large Russell Rosen CUNY – Staten Island [email protected] Gabriel Arellano Georgetown University [email protected] Ron Fenicle Montgomery College [email protected] The Power of ASL By Andrew P. J. Byrne What Counts as ASL Literature? Most of us know the answers to the commonly asked questions, “Can there be a literature that does not have a written form?”, “Does ASL have a literature?”, and “If yes, what is ASL literature?” A question that seems to be rarely asked is “what constitutes ASL literature?” There appears to be no one precise answer to this question, however, several references do address this issue. For example, some of us place emphasis on the form or the content of a literary work. Others argue the importance of aesthetics (artistic elements within a work) or procedural aesthetics (how a storyteller delivers a work – see Peters, 2000). In this editorial, I will refer to the respective works of Christopher New, Roman Jakobson, and Viktor Shklovsky as an attempt to answer the question of what counts as ASL literature. I will also discuss two videos to reinforce the guidelines I have used to classify one as literary and the other as outside the boundaries of ASL literature. To understand the difference between literature (i.e., ASL) and non-literature, let us begin with Christopher New’s quote. “Literature is necessarily linguistic; it is distinguished from painting, sculpture, music, dance, architecture, etc., by its use of language. To say that a work is literary is partly to say that it uses language” (1999, p. 2). With ASL literature, we can say that it refers to the ASL linguistic elements of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, including “from the smallest units, such as handshape or eye gaze location, to those on the grammar and the discourse level” (Bahan, 2006, p. 27). To conclude this point with a different quote by New, “it is only language in the restricted sense that is essential to literature” (p. 3). We can claim this for ASL literature. We are aware of many works that are signed in a restricted or special way. Among the published canonical works for ASL literature are the narratives told in the ASL Literature Series (1994), and the poems told in the DVDs entitled ASL Poetry: Selected Works of Clayton Valli (1995) and The Treasure: Poems by Ella Mae Lentz (2006). Another attempt to distinguish literature from non- literature is to use the works by Roman Jakobson and Viktor Shklovsky. As members of the Russian Formalism movement in (Continue on the next page) 2 Spring 2019 – Issue 13