American Sign Language (ASL) Literacy and ASL Literature: A Critical Appraisal
Byrne, Andrew Patrick Joseph
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While there has been widespread acceptance of American Sign Language (ASL) as the language of instruction in residential schools for native/non-native ASL students and in colleges and universities as a foreign language, there has been little research on defining ASL literacy and ASL literature. In addition, while there has been academic debate on the existence or nonexistence of ASL literacy, there have been no studies that have defined and have described the characteristics of ASL literacy and ASL literature. To fill this void, this study answered the following research questions: (a) At a time when there is increasing recognition of ASL literacy, how would ASL literature be defined? (b) What are the features that characterize ASL literature? (c) What would such a literature comprise (e.g., genres)? To what extent is there a comprehensive taxonomy of genres captured in VHS and DVD publications? (d) What are examples of ASL literary works included in this taxonomy? A qualitative research design is used (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). The methodology utilized was a cross-case analysis of five interviews (four individual interviews and one focus group interview) using the constant comparison method where the information is categorized into responses (Hewitt-Taylor, 2001). Eight native ASL respondents in the field of ASL and Deaf Studies who are knowledgeable and have expertise with ASL literature were contacted and interviewed. The rationale for this study was that such an investigation of ASL literacy and ASL literature will provide research in the field on this neglected topic. Such a study would have value and importance to the ASL culture and ASL community, who cherish the values embedded in ASL literature, as well as accomplish education goals to instruct native/non-native ASL students with quality ASL literature.