Words Made Flesh: Nineteenth-Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture

Words Made Flesh: Nineteenth-Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture

by R. A. R. Edwards


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During the early nineteenth century, schools for the deaf appeared in the United States for the first time. These schools were committed to the use of the sign language to educate deaf students. Manual education made the growth of the deaf community possible, for it gathered deaf people together in sizable numbers for the first time in American history. It also fueled the emergence of Deaf culture, as the schools became agents of cultural transformations.

Just as the Deaf community began to be recognized as a minority culture, in the 1850s, a powerful movement arose to undo it, namely oral education. Advocates of oral education, deeply influenced by the writings of public school pioneer Horace Mann, argued that deaf students should stop signing and should start speaking in the hope that the Deaf community would be abandoned, and its language and culture would vanish. In this revisionist history, Words Made Flesh explores the educational battles of the nineteenth century from both hearing and deaf points of view. It places the growth of the Deaf community at the heart of the story of deaf education and explains how the unexpected emergence of Deafness provoked the pedagogical battles that dominated the field of deaf education in the nineteenth century, and still reverberate today.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479883738
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 01/01/2014
Series: The History of Disability , #4
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 263
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author



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R. A. R. Edwards is Associate
Professor of History at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester,
New York.

Table of Contents



1 Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc:

A Yale Man and a Deaf Man Open a School and Create a World

2 Manual Education: An American Beginning

3 Learning to Be Deaf: Lessons from the Residential School

4 The Deaf Way: Living a Deaf Life

5 Horace Mann and Samuel Gridley Howe:

The First American Oralists

6 Languages of Signs: Methodical versus Natural

7 The Fight over the Clarke School:

Manualists and Oralists Confront Deafness




About the Author

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From the Publisher

“In this gracefully written book, Edwards offers both a fascinating narrative and a provocative, revisionist thesis. Scholars and general readers interested in the Deaf community and American cultural history will find it a rewarding read.”-Douglas Baynton,University of Iowa

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