American Sign Language and Deaf Cultural Studies Minor

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Overview

The American Sign Language and deaf cultural studies minor prepares students in the multidisciplinary study of American Sign Language and deaf culture. The minor is open to hearing and deaf students enrolled in all bachelor's degree programs. Courses in the minor address topics in the field of ASL and DCS including the study of ASL and its structure, ASL literature, literature in English pertaining to the D/deaf experience, the history of D/deaf people in America and around the world, Deaf art and cinema, the experience of D/deaf people from racial, ethnic, and other minority groups, oppression in the lives D/deaf people, and various political, legal, and educational issues affecting members of the D/deaf community. The minor complements majors in fields such as business, imaging arts and sciences, health sciences, policy studies, professional and technical communication, psychology, and numerous scientific and technical fields.

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).

Curriculum

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).
Course
Required Courses
Option 1: For students who are not proficient in ASL:
MLAS-201
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.
MLAS-202
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.
Option 2: For students who are proficient in ASL, choose one of the following:
   MLAS-351
   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).
   MLAS-352
   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.
Electives*
Choose three or four of the following courses†:
Language courses:
  MLAS-301
   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.
  MLAS-302
   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.
  MLAS-351
   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).
  MLAS-352
   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.
  MLAS-401
   Advanced American Sign Language I
This course builds upon information taught in Beginning ASL I – Intermediate ASL II. Students continue learning and using ASL vocabu-lary, grammatical principles and various advanced-level discourse features in narratives and presentations in ASL. Students continue to 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.
  MLAS-402
   Advanced American Sign Language II
This course builds upon information taught in Beginning ASL I - Advanced ASL I. Students continue learning and using ASL vocabulary, grammatical principles and various advanced-level discourse features in narratives and presentations in ASL. Students analyze different components in storytelling. ASL Literature will be introduced in this level. Students identify controversial issues in various works of ASL Literature.
Deaf cultural studies courses:
   ENGL-417
   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.
   FNRT-440
   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.
   HIST-230
   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.
   HIST-231
   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.
   HIST-330
   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.
   HIST-333
   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.
   HIST-334
   Oppression in the Lives of Deaf People
   HIST-335
   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.
  NHSS-275
   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.
   SOCI-240
   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.

* At least one course must be at the 300 level or higher.

† Students who wish to focus their studies on ASL should choose two language courses. Students who wish to focus on Deaf Cultural Studies should choose three or four DCS courses depending on their proficiency in ASL. Students who prefer a balance of ASL and DCS courses may freely distribute their electives across ASL and DCS in a manner consistent with their ASL proficiency and course prerequisites.