Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language

Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language

by Douglas C. Baynton
     
 

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Forbidden Signs explores American culture from the mid-nineteenth century to 1920 through the lens of one striking episode: the campaign led by Alexander Graham Bell and other prominent Americans to suppress the use of sign language among deaf people.

The ensuing debate over sign language invoked such fundamental questions as what distinguished

Overview

Forbidden Signs explores American culture from the mid-nineteenth century to 1920 through the lens of one striking episode: the campaign led by Alexander Graham Bell and other prominent Americans to suppress the use of sign language among deaf people.

The ensuing debate over sign language invoked such fundamental questions as what distinguished Americans from non-Americans, civilized people from "savages," humans from animals, men from women, the natural from the unnatural, and the normal from the abnormal. An advocate of the return to sign language, Baynton found that although the grounds of the debate have shifted, educators still base decisions on many of the same metaphors and images that led to the misguided efforts to eradicate sign language.

"Baynton's brilliant and detailed history, Forbidden Signs, reminds us that debates over the use of dialects or languages are really the linguistic tip of a mostly submerged argument about power, social control, nationalism, who has the right to speak and who has the right to control modes of speech."—Lennard J. Davis, The Nation

"Forbidden Signs is replete with good things."—Hugh Kenner, New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Baynton (history and American Sign Language, U. of Iowa) narrates the campaign by Alexander Graham Bell and other prominent Americans to suppress the use of sign language among deaf people from the middle of the 19th century to 1920. He finds traits of American culture in the characterizing of the deaf as outsiders, beings of silence, innocent, and mysterious. An advocate of ASL, he looks at how the metaphors and images generated by the debate still influence educators. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226039688
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/22/1998
Series:
NONE
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
235
Sales rank:
1,138,641
File size:
1 MB

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