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ASL Literature   Tags: american sign language, asl, deaf, guide, literature, research guide  

This ASL Literature LibGuide focuses on locating poetry and stories told in American Sign Language (ASL).
Last Updated: Sep 8, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
ASL Literature Print Page

Resources in Archives

The Deaf Collections and Archives has many collections that contain photographs, personal papers, manuscripts, letters, diaries, artwork, films and more. Visit the Archives in the MLC's basement or at the archives website. Archive hours are: Monday - Friday, 9am - 4:30 P.M. E-mail:


Deaf Biographical Information

To locate Deaf biographical information, see the Libguide on Deaf Biographies.

Web Links for Selected ASL Literature Clips

Youtube contains many ASL signed video clips.  Try a Google search for ASL poetry, ASL stories, signer's name or title.  Here are a few links:


ASL Literature and Poetry (courtesy of Joan Naturale at RIT)



 ASL Literature is composed of poetry or stories told in American Sign Language (ASL) with an artistic approach usually reserved for theatrical performances.  Dramatic performances and songs may be considered as part of ASL Literature; they are not included in this guide.  Characteristics such as visual play, handshape stories, and percussion signing are often used.  Parameters such as handshapes, movement, placement, palm orientation, and non-manual signals may be included.  

ASL poetry is signed in ASL, not English word order.   Visual movement is central in the structure of the poem.   Signs are used them in an artistic and aesthetical way. ASL poetry features are: rhyme, meter, and rhythm.  Handshapes, movement, paths, space, and non-manual signals are often incorporated.  Bernard Bragg, Dorothy Miles, Peter Cook, Debbie Rennie, Ella Mae Lentz, Clayton Valli, and Patrick Graybill are some of the leading ASL poets.

Films and videos are located in two collections: 

THE GALLAUDET VIDEO CATALOG:  The George Veditz Preservation of Sign Language Series produced by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the oldest film collection.  The collection consists of several films produced between 1910-1921. George Veditz, Edward Miner Gallaudet, and other individuals have signed speeches and made other presentations in an effort to preserve American sign language.  Through the years, deaf people have used film and video to preserve not only sign language but additional events or performances. These materials are accessible online from the  Video Catalog or the ALADIN Catalog.  Currently, 16mm films and U-matic tapes are being preserved and digitized into the Video Catalog.  For more information see the Gallaudet University Video Catalog box in this LibGuide.

THE DEAF DVD COLLECTION:  The DVD collection includes works by sign masters, such as  Dorothy Miles, Clayton Valli, Ella Mae Lentz, Bill Ennis, Patrick Graybill, Lou Fant and others.   New videos are continuously added to the DEAF DVD collection.  Use the ALADIN Catalog to locate materials.



Searching in the Library's Catalog

To locate materials: choose the Library's Catalog ( Classic or Summon).

For the (Classic) Library Catalog, use these keywords:

  • "American Sign Language literature" and video
  • deaf and poetry and video
  • deaf and storytelling and video
  • deaf and folklore and video
  • deaf and fables and video
  • deaf and "personal narratives" and video                                                                      

Be sure to limit the location to Gallaudet University.

To locate materials about ASL Literature, use these keywords:

  • deaf and poetry
  • deaf and storytelling
  • deaf and storytelling and children
  • deaf and folklore
  • deaf and fables
  • deaf and "personal narratives"


For the Summon Library Catalog, use these keywords:

  • American Sign Language literature
  • deaf poetry
  • deaf storytelling
  • deaf storytelling children
  • deaf folklore
  • deaf fables
  • deaf personal narratives    

     Location limit: At Gallaudet Only

     Format limit: Videos (if desired)

    To search for specific names:

    • Use a person's first and last names. Example: Ella Mae Lentz (Summon) OR "Ella Mae Lentz" (Classic)

    Selected Bibliography


    • A to z: ABC stories in ASL.  San Diego, CA: DawnSignPress, 2010. 
    • American culture: the deaf perspective.  San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Public Library, 1984.
    • American sign language: ABC stories.  Burtonsville, MD: Sign Media, 1992.
    • ASL poetry: selected works of Clayton Valli.  San Diego, CA: Dawn Pictures, 1995.
    • ASL Storytelling [Rochester, N.Y.]: American Sign Language Teachers Association, 2008.
    • Bahan, B. & Supalla, S.  Bird of a different feather and for a decent living, 1994.
    • Eyeth Story.  American Fork, Utah: Eye-Sign Media, 2005.
    • Flying words Project Live from Bowery Poetry Club [New York?]: Flying Words Project, [2007?}
    • Gestures A: poetry by Dorothy Miles.  Acton, CA: Joyce Media, 1976.
    • Handful of stories: I.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Television, [1980?]
    • Handful of stories: II.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Television, 1982.
    • HeArt of Deaf Culture: literary and artistic expressions of deafhood.  Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Institute of Technology, 2012.
    • Heart of the Hydrogen Jukebox.  Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Institute of Technology, 2008.
    • Poetry in motion: original works in ASL.  Burtonsville, MD:  Sign Media, 2007.
    • Rosa Lee Show: 2004-2008. [s.l.:s.n.], 2008.
    • Spring Dawn by Jolanta A. Lapiak.  [s.l.] Jolanta A. Lapiak, [2010?]
    • The treasure: poems by Ella Mae Lentz. San Diego, CA: In Motion Press, 1996.


      • Another handful of stories: thirty-seven stories by deaf storytellers transliterated from the Deaf storytellers video tape series.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet College, Division of Public Services, 1984.
      • Cohn, Jim.  Sign mind: studies in American sign language poetics.  Boulder, CO: Museum of American Poetics Publications, 1999.
      • Dirksen, H. and et. al.  Signing the body poetic: essays in American sign language literature.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
      • Frishber, N. (1988)  Singers of tales: the case of literary status of an unwritten language.  Sign Language Studies, 59, 149-168. 
      • Kuntze, M.  Developing student's literacy skills in ASL. IN: Snider, Bruce.  Post Milan ASL and English literacy: issues, trends and research.  Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University: Continuing Education and Outreach, 1994.
      • Lane, H., Hoffmeister, R. & Bahan, B. A journey in the DEAF-WORLD.  San Diego, CA: DawnSignPress, 1996.
      • Ormby, A.  (1995)  Poetic cohension in ASL: Valli's "Snowflake" and Coleridge's "Frost at midnight."  Sign Language Studies, 88, III-IM.
      • Peters, C.  Deaf American literature: a performance based minority literature.  Deaf Studies IV, Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University, Continuing Education and Outreach, 1995
      • Peters, C. L.  Rathskellar: some oral-traditional and not-so-traditional characteristics of ASL literature.  IN: Bragg, L. Deaf world: a historical reader and primary sourcebook.  New York: New York University Press, 2001.
      • Rutherford, S. A study of American deaf folklore.  Burtonsville, MD: Linstok Press, 1993.
      • Valli, C.  A need in deaf education: ASL artistic expression.  IN: Cebe, J., (Ed.)  Deaf studies for educators.  Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University, College of Continuing Education, 1992.
      • Valli, C. Poetics of ASL Poetry.  IN: Deaf Studies IV: visions for the future- visions of the past: conference proceedings.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet University, College of Continuing Education, 1995. 

        Gallaudet Video Catalog

        This collection is composed of interviews, presentations, and other events that document Deaf culture and Deaf history.  Subjects include: bilingualism, biographies, folklore, theatrical productions, Gallaudet student productions, VL2, the American Folklife Festival and community contributed videos. Online access is available through the Video Catalog or ALADIN Catalog.  Some of these videos are also available in the University Library for borrowing. 


        These online databases provide citations to journal articles and in many cases, full text articles or dissertations are available.  Try using ASL literature and American sign language literature as the results vary. 


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