AuthorMorse, Tracy Ann
Committee ChairMountford, Roxanne
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe author argues that religion has provided the deaf community with a powerful language to convey their authority in struggles to preserve sign language. Employing religious rhetoric, the American deaf community historically overcame the oppression of a dominant hearing community that suppressed the use of sign language. Grounding his arguments for educating deaf Americans in his Protestant theology, the Reverend Thomas Gallaudet garnered support for the school by appealing to the Christian convictions of the citizens of Hartford - intertwining Protestantism with the emerging American deaf community. By exploring the school, sanctuary, and social activism of the American deaf community, the author provides evidence of deaf community rhetoric that includes religious themes and biblical references. For example, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, arguments for methods of how to teach deaf students divided on ideological grounds. Manualists who supported the use of sign language often grounded their arguments in Protestant theology, while oralists who were influenced by Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species grounded arguments in evolutionary thinking. The influence of biblical teachings was evident in the schools for the deaf. The chapel services perpetuated the use of sign language even in times when sign language was under attack. From these chapel services came a social purpose for the church sanctuary in the lives of deaf Americans in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. The sanctuary also provided the deaf community with a political platform advocating sign language use. The social activism of the deaf community has taken on many forms. In the early twentieth century, the National Association of the Deaf president, George Veditz, used film to capture his fiery Preservation of the Sign Language, which is filled with religious rhetoric advocating the deaf community’s use of sign language. More recently, Deaf West Theatre’ production of Big River is an example of how artful expression is used to support the values of the deaf community. This dissertation concludes with the suggestion that technology has replaced many of the functions of religion in the lives of deaf Americans and the author encourages further research in specific areas.
Degree ProgramRhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English