This paper analyzes themes and symbols in a number of works of poetry in American Sign Language. In particular, the expression of themes of resistance to oppressive elements of the dominant (hearing) culture and affirmation of the values of Deaf American culture will be identified and described in various poetic works. For analysis, definitions of resistance and affirmation are borrowed from Durr and Grcevic (1999) and Durr (1999/2000) who applied these concepts to the works of Deaf artists striving to represent the Deaf experience. Our analysis confirms that there exists a thriving tradition of ASL poetic works which can be described as having themes and symbols of resistance and affirmation. Because a number of poems were found to depict the journey from resistance to affirmation, a third theme, called liberation, was created. Furthermore, we propose that these poems can be viewed as part of both postcolonial literature literary studies and the basic tenets established by the De'VIA Manifesto. Because of the universality of the Deaf experience across cultures, the poetry of ASL would likely embody themes which hold international relevance for analysis of the signed poetry of Deaf cultures around the world.
Department, Program, or Center
Cultural and Creative Studies (NTID)
Christie, Karen and Wilkins, Dorothy, "Themes and symbols in ASL poetry: Resistance, affirmation, and liberation" (2007). Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus