Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  7 (1883–84), 588–98.

The Poetry of the Deaf

E M Gallaudet




Disability, Sound, Music, Psychology, Periodicals, Aesthetics

People mentioned:

Thomas H Gallaudet

Institutions mentioned:

Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb , American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, Hertford, CT

    Asserts that it is 'not likely that the interesting questions in mental science as to what is the difference between the normal mind and that in which the sense of hearing has not existed will ever be fully answered', although it is 'evidently impossible that the congenitally deaf should have any proper idea of sound, hence of music'. Nevertheless, the 'deaf, in no inconsiderable numbers, have essayed to mount on the wing of poetic expression', as has been shown in numerous contributions to the 'American Annals of the Deaf and Dumb [...] now the leading periodical of its kind in the world'. (588) One such contributor, John Carlin of New York, 'enjoys the distinction of being the only deaf-mute poet the world has ever known' (590). Describes the careers of a number of American and European deaf poets, including John R Burnet whose 'Tales of the Deaf and Dumb, with Miscellaneous Poems [...] attracted great attention, and was successful both as a pecuniary venture and in a literary point of view' (592). At the same time, John Kitto, the 'famous Bible commentator' and author of an 'interesting work on the Lost Senses', claims that 'deafness is an insuperable obstacle to rhythmical composition'. Kitto, who 'became deaf in childhood', has 'published poetical compositions' but still insists 'on the impossibility of his being able to compose in correct verse'. Suggests, however, that 'Kitto's poetry is better than his reasoning' (595), and maintains that the deaf are a 'peculiar and most interesting class of persons—a class hitherto commanding little attention in the world of letters, but destined, we feel assured [...] to contribute in the future its due share to the aggregate of intellectual production' (598).

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