Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf

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Oliver Sacks has been described (by The New York Times Book Review) as "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century," and his books, including the medical classics Migraine and Awakenings, have been widely praised by critics from W. H. Auden to Harold Pinter to Doris Lessing. In his last book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Dr. Sacks undertook a fascinating journey into the world of the neurologically impaired, an exploration that Noel Perrin in the Chicago Sun-Times called "wise, ...
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Hardcover New 0520060830 Never Read-may have light shelf or handling wear-has a price sticker or price written inside front or back cover-publishers mark-Good Copy-I ship FAST ... with FREE tracking! ! Read more Show Less

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Berkeley and Los Angeles 1989 Hardcover First Printing. 180 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Like New. LANGUAGE. Begins with the history of deaf people in the United States, ... the often outrageous ways in which they have been seen and treated in the past, and their continuing strtuggle for acceptance in a hearing world. And it examines the amazing and beatiful visual language of the deaf-Sign-which has only recently been recognized fully as a language-linguistically complete, rich, and as expressive as any spoken language. Includes an Index. (Key Words: American Sign Language, Oliver Sacks, Deaf, Gallaudet University, Elisabeth Zinser, Hearing, Isolation, Deafness, Brain, Noam Chomsky). Read more Show Less

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Overview


Oliver Sacks has been described (by The New York Times Book Review) as "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century," and his books, including the medical classics Migraine and Awakenings, have been widely praised by critics from W. H. Auden to Harold Pinter to Doris Lessing. In his last book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Dr. Sacks undertook a fascinating journey into the world of the neurologically impaired, an exploration that Noel Perrin in the Chicago Sun-Times called "wise, compassionate, and very literate . . . the kind that restore(s) one's faith in humanity."
Now, with Seeing Voices, Dr. Sacks takes us into the world of the deaf, a world he explores with the same passion and insight that have illuminated other human conditions for his readers everywhere. Seeing Voices is a journey: a journey first into the history of deaf people, the (often outrageous) ways in which they were seen and treated in the past, and the new understanding that started to dawn in the eighteenth century; and a journey into the present situation of the deaf--a situation which, all too often, is still one of misunderstanding and mistreatment.
Dr. Sacks writes of how he has come to see deaf people "in a new light, as a people, with a distinctive language, sensibility, and culture of their own." Indeed, it is only in the last ten years that the extraordinary and beautiful visual-gestural language of the deaf--Sign--has been fully recognized as a language, as linguistically complete, rich, and expressive as any spoken language, a language with its own distinctive basis in the brain. The one overwhelming peril for the deaf is to be kept from achieving language competence of any kind, to be denied access to both Sign and speech, and that tragedy is completely preventable by early exposure to Sign.
Sign is also social and cultural. It lies at the heart of the many manifestions of "deaf consciousness" in the past twenty years, among them the remarkable uprising of the deaf students at Gallaudet University in 1988. The revolt gained international attention and showed the world decisively that deaf people have "come of age" and no longer want to be treated as "disabled." Dr. Sacks gives a vivid personal account of the revolt and ponders its implications for the future. All his encounters in the course of this exhilarating journey raise issues of surprising depth and richness which, though of paramount interest to deaf people and all concerned with them, also extend powerfully to the human condition in general.

Covers a history of the deaf, the battle for acceptance in a hearing world and sign language as communication.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Sacks neurology, Einstein College of Medicine, and well-known as the author of The Man who mistook his wife for a hat discusses the history, culture, and language of deaf people in the US. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520060838
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/2/1989
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Oliver Sacks
Dr. Oliver Sacks was born in London in 1933 and was educated in London, Oxford, California, and New York. His concern has always been with individuals, as they cope with extraordinary neurological difficulties, and lately this concern has widened to embrace communities, such as the deaf, and their collective and creative adaptations to biological predicaments. Dr. Sacks lives in New York, where he is Professor of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Biography

"I think writing and language are not just to articulate or communicate, but they are also to investigate," the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks once said. "For me, writing and medicine, writing and science, are not separate: they entail each other." Sacks grew up in a large and prodigiously gifted family of scientists; with their encouragement, he set up his own chemistry lab and spent his days in a swirl of sulfurous fumes and smoke. He was also fascinated by biographies, and spent hours poring over the lives of great scientists like Dmitri Mendeleev, Humphrey Davy,and Marie Curie. When the chaos of World War II and traumatic experiences at boarding school intruded on the "lyrical, mystical perceptions" of Sacks' childhood, he clung to scientific knowledge as a means of ordering and understanding the universe.

After his medical training at Oxford, Sacks migrated to the States to pursue a career in neurology research. But he made a clumsy lab researcher. "I was always dropping things or breaking things," he explained in a lecture, "and eventually they said: 'Get out! Go work with patients. They're less important.'" Sacks went to work at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, where he was struck by the sight of patients who had survived encephalitis lethargica, the "sleeping sickness." The patients were nearly immobile, but the nurses who cared for them insisted that there were living personalities behind the frozen masks, and Sacks believed the nurses. The story of his work with these patients is told in Sacks' 1973 book Awakenings, which inspired a movie starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro and also formed the basis of a play by Harold Pinter.

But Sacks is perhaps best known for his collections of case histories (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars et al.), which probe the experiences of people with disorders and rare neurological conditions. In telling their stories, he often questions our assumptions about the nature of human consciousness. Part what distinguishes Sacks' work from the traditional case study is his interest in how a patient functions with a disorder, not just how he or she is impaired by it.

Sacks has also drawn on personal experience for wonderfully resonant scientific memoirs that recall his remarkable family, people who have influenced and inspired him, and his lifelong love of medicine and physical science. Meanwhile, he continues to work with patients, to understand them through writing about them, and to point his readers toward new ways of understanding themselves. As Thomas P. Sakmar, interim president of Rockefeller University, said in awarding Sacks the Lewis Thomas Prize: "Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience -- and compels us to realize, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves."

Good To Know

As a child, Sacks was fascinated by the periodic table of the elements at the Science Museum in London. His boyhood love of chemistry hasn't waned: according to an article in Wired, Sacks owns half a dozen T-shirts with the periodic table printed on them, along with periodic-table coffee mugs, tote bags and mousepads.

Sacks's memoir Uncle Tungsten inspired the creation of Theodore Gray's Periodic Table Table, a wooden table representing Mendeleev's table of the elements and containing samples of each element. Sacks later paid a visit to see the Periodic Table Table -- wearing, of course, one of his periodic-table T-shirts.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.M., B.Ch., Queen's College, Oxford, 1958

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