American Sign Language and Deaf Cultural Studies Immersion

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The ASL and Deaf Cultural Studies immersion prepares students in the multi-disciplinary study of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture. Open to hearing and deaf students, courses address topics in the field of ASL and Deaf Cultural Studies, including the study of ASL and its structure, ASL literature, literature in English pertaining to the Deaf experience, the history of Deaf people in the U.S. and around the world, Deaf art and cinema, the experience of Deaf people from racial, ethnic, and other underrepresented groups, intersectionality, oppression in the lives of Deaf people, and various political, legal, and educational issues affecting members of Deaf communities.

Students enrolled in the ASL-English Interpretation major can pursue the immersion if they choose an emphasis on Deaf Cultural Studies. They cannot apply ASL courses towards the immersion. For ASL-English Interpretation majors, the immersion courses must also be different from the two Deaf Cultural studies courses they elect to fulfill the Deaf cultural studies requirements for their major.


Choose three of the following:
   Global Deaf Literature
This literature course explores the deaf elements in select literary works by deaf authors and hearing authors from different societies around the world representing various literary periods and movements. This course begins with the study of ancient writings and laws about Deaf people, documenting beliefs and values of earliest civilizations about Deaf people. Deaf culture in world literature is largely described by preconceived notions and physiognomic descriptions of Deaf people. Stories throughout world history are also characterized by varied responses to emerging educational approaches. Significant advances in medicine, science, and technology in the 19th century changed conceptions of the moral and cultural values imposed on Deaf people by hearing societies. This concept is explored through various literary lenses. The course considers global literary tradition for new interpretations of Deaf experiences.
   Deaf Literature
The major focus of this course is on the image of the deaf and the deaf experience as depicted in literature. The course attempts to define deafness and the cultural roles it plays in both texts by deaf authors and texts about deaf persons, as well as to examine particular literary forms related to the deaf experience. Thus, attention is also given to studying ASL poetry.
   Deaf Art and Cinema
Students will examine the context in which specific cultural groups have chosen to create works about their experiences. They will go on to explore a wide range of artistic works representing the Deaf experience in visual arts and cinema. Students will be expected to analyze works in terms of cultural symbols and themes. Attention will be given to historical context (personal and collective) that has helped to shape many of these works, motifs, and messages. Students will write and present in-depth papers examining specific works and artists/filmmakers. In addition, students will be expected to create an original artwork and a collaborative short film.
   American Deaf History
This course explores the history of the deaf community in the United States. It offers a broad survey of American deaf history from the early 19th century to the late 20th century. Major events in American deaf history will be considered, including the foundation of schools for the deaf, the birth of American Sign Language, the emergence of deaf culture, the challenge of oralism, the threat of eugenics, and the fight for civil rights.
   Deaf People in Global Perspective
This course explores the history of the deaf community in global perspective from the 18th to the 20th century. It takes a comparative approach, exploring the histories of deaf people from around the globe, including deaf lives in Central America, Europe, Africa, and East Asia. Special attention will be given to the major events in European deaf history, as Europe was the site for the first schools for the deaf in the history of the world, and the world's first documented deaf culture, in France, emerged there as well. The spread of deaf education, the rise of indigenous signed languages, the birth of deaf-hood, and the fight for human rights will all be placed in a global context.
   Deaf People and Technology
The deaf community has a long and complicated relationship with technological devices. The deaf community, for instance, was quick to embrace the new technology of moving pictures, and many deaf actors found work in early Hollywood during the silent film era. Most lost their livelihoods when sound was introduced to motion pictures. Deaf people were left out of the communication revolution brought about by the telephone for many years, but now the deaf community is increasingly a wired community, as texting, tweeting, and vlogging makes more communication technologies accessible to deaf users. This course will explore the historical relationship between technology and deafness. It will consider how views of deafness frequently shape technology, that is, if deafness is viewed as a pathological illness, technologies are focused on curing it (e.g., cochlear implants), whereas, if deaf people are viewed as members of linguistic and cultural minority, technologies are harnessed to make it easier for that minority to interact with the majority culture (e.g, relay systems). This course will consider how deaf people have historically used, created, and adopted technologies to their own ends.
   Diversity in the Deaf Community
Students in this course will be introduced to the historical study of diversity in the Deaf community, especially as it relates to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality. Students will learn to analyze the implications of such diversity in terms of the social perception of deaf people, the history of the education of deaf people, and the experience of acculturation for and as Deaf people. The course will examine how the process of acculturalization has operated, historically, within the Deaf community. Deaf culture has sought to transcend various differences and to bond members of the Deaf community together, in one, larger Deaf identity. But has this always been achieved? How has the Deaf community handled issues of diversity in different historical moments? Has the history of diversity within the Deaf community been similar to the history of diversity within the hearing community? Or have there been distinctively Deaf ways of diversity in history? This course will invite students to compare and contrast the history of difference and diversity in the deaf and hearing communities, and to explore those historical moments of intersection and interaction as well.
   Oppression in the Lives of Deaf People
   Women and the Deaf Community
Deaf history, as a field, has often neglected the story of deaf women. Scholar Arlene B. Kelly has recently asked, Where is deaf herstory? This course seeks to correct that gender imbalance in deaf history. We will study deaf women's history. This will include a consideration of deaf-blind women, as well, as women like Helen Keller were often the most famous deaf women of their era. But this course also seeks to look at the role of hearing women in deaf history. Hearing women dominated the field of deaf education in the late nineteenth century. They had a tremendous impact on the lives of deaf children and the events of deaf educational history. Hearing women were also important figures in deaf history as mothers. As mothers of deaf children, hearing women were frequently asked to behave as teachers in the home. Their embrace of this role often led them to endorse oral education, and oppose the sign language. Hearing mothers in this way were pitted against their adult deaf daughters, who frequently went on to learn sign language against their mothers' wishes. The historically complex relationship between women and the deaf community will be explored in this course.
   Deaf Spaces
History, and particularly Deaf history within a predominantly hearing world, is the product of a vast network of inter-related spaces, in which more or less well-defined knowledges and cultures are performed. This course will provide students the opportunity to learn skills to identify and describe the different spaces - produced by both Deaf and hearing people - that have contributed to a 'history of the Deaf community'. It will equip students with the ability to not only identify and describe the histories of the Deaf community, but also to critically explore the meta-historical narratives that shape those histories, allowing them to situate those narratives within the wider evolution of social and cultural representation. Deaf Geographies reside at the intersection of Human Geography and Deaf Studies. It considers spatiality, language, citizenship, education, and identity, as well as other themes of interest in new ways by viewing these through the eyes of a community who perform their cultural and social geographies in the visual.
   Theory and Methods of Deaf Geographies
The course is designed to give students theoretical and practical exposure to qualitative social science applied research methods in a new area of human geographic and Deaf Studies research: Deaf Geographies. Deaf Geographies reside at the intersection of Human Geography and Deaf Studies. It considers spatiality, language, citizenship, education, and identity, as well as other themes of interest in new ways by viewing these through the eyes of a community who perform their cultural and social geographies in the visual. The focus of the course is an instructor-led research project. Students will gain a grounding in appropriate methodological theory in order to conduct hands-on, primary research that will include proposal writing, data collection, analysis, and dissemination.
   Beginning American Sign Language I
ASL I includes linguistic features, cultural protocols and core vocabulary for students to function in basic ASL conversations that include ASL grammar for asking and answering questions while introducing oneself, exchanging personal information, talking about family, friends and surroundings, and discussing activities. This course is designed for students who have no knowledge of American Sign Language. Students must take placement exam if this is their first RIT class in Sign Language and they have some prior study of Sign Language.
   Beginning American Sign Language II
This course expands the basic principles presented in ASL I. ASL II teaches students to use linguistics features, cultural protocols and core vocabulary to function in basic ASL conversations that include ASL grammar for giving directions, describing, making request, talking about family, occupations and routines, and attributing qualities to others.
   Intermediate Sign Language I
This course builds upon information taught in Beginning ASL I and II and introduces expanded grammatical features of ASL and specialized vocabulary, while continuing to increase fingerspelling and numbers receptive and expressive skills. In addition, some basic features of ASL discourse are taught in organizing and explaining contextual information.
   Intermediate Sign Language II
This course builds upon information taught in Beginning ASL I-Intermediate ASL I. Students continue learning and using ASL vocabulary, grammatical principles and various intermediate-level discourse features in narratives and presentations in ASL. Students analyze multiple meaning English words and English idioms to express concepts in ASL. Issues related to Deaf culture continue to be introduced based on unit topics.
   Linguistics of American Sign Language
Students in this course will be introduced to the study of American Sign Language in terms of its linguistic structure and use. In particular, students will learn to analyze the basic features of ASL phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics/discourse In addition, research related to variation in ASL and acquisition of ASL will also be reviewed. Instruction is in ASL (an interpreter will not be provided).
   American Sign Language Literature
In this course, students will explore a wide range of literary works representing the various genres of ASL literature. Students will be expected to analyze works in terms of literary conventions/techniques as well as relevant cultural symbols and themes. Attention will be given to historical context, Deaf cultural values, and the style/conventions used by individual literary artists. Each student will be required to complete literary analysis papers. In addition, students will be expected to create original ASL literary works and/or retell well-known ASL literary works as individuals or in collaboration with other students. This course is conducted in ASL, without an interpreter, and will require considerable reading and viewing of videotaped materials.
   Deaf Culture in America
This course is an introductory survey of Deaf culture in the United States. Students will study the scholarly literature pertaining to various social groups in the Deaf community and have contact with their members. This course will familiarize students with the characteristics of Deaf Culture, as well as general perceptions of the Deaf community within the dominant mainstream society.
   Visual Expressions of Deaf Culture
This course introduces students to Deaf Cultural Studies using stories about the Deaf experience. Students will interpret works in visual art, film, performing arts, and literature (ASL and English). Students will learn how historical/social/political and intersectional context, Deaf cultural values, and themes and symbols influence our interpretation of these creative works. Finally, the importance of collective memories for preserving Deaf cultural norms/values and promoting social justice will be addressed.