Visualizing Deafness

Jonathan HsyHumanities Forum — MEMS Colloquium Lecture
Jonathan Hsy, Associate Professor of English, George Washington University
“Visualizing Deafness: Language Manuals and Manual Languages in Premodern Archives”
Thursday, October 18, 4 p.m.
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery

Building on research on manual-kinetic communication in medieval and early modern Europe, this presentation suggests possibilities for a prehistory of Deaf culture prior to the development of fully expressive sign languages. How did premodern people express the value of deafness as a physical condition and cultural practice? In what way can lived experience of deafness in the historical past reshape contemporary (often politicized) understandings of cultural, linguistic, or ethnic identity?

Jonathan Hsy is Associate Professor of English at George Washington University and founding co-director of the GW Digital Humanities Institute. His interests integrate medieval literature, media studies, disability history, and critical theory. Author of Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature (2013), he is the co-editor of the medieval volume of Bloomsbury’s Cultural History of Disability and co-director of the Global Chaucers project. Hsy’s articles on digital humanities and disability have appeared in PMLA, postmedieval, New Medieval Literatures, Accessus, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, and Cambridge Companion to the Body in Literature. His current book project, tentatively titled, The Unfamiliar Body: Disability, Autobiography, and Historical Difference, explores life writing by medieval authors who self-identified as blind or deaf.


Admission is free. A reception will follow the program.


Sponsored by the Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) Program; the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Department of English; the Department of Visual Arts; the Department of Ancient Studies; and Student Disability Services.

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