Poetic images: Literature in spoken and sign languages

In cooperation with Alumni Association AUV / Alumnikring Taalwetenschap & Alumnikring Engels

01mrt2018 20:00 - 21:30


What is a poem? Standard answers to this question refer to Shakespeare, sonnets, rhyme, and alliterations. But poetry exists in many forms, and in sign languages too. What does sign poetry look like? Two language professors discuss differences and similarities between poetry in sign languages and spoken poetry. A performance by sign poet Selena Waas concludes the evening.

We all have an image of what a traditional poem looks like. Poems in sign languages challenge that idea. If there is no sound, can poems use rhyme? Do they make use of metaphor, or other poetic devices? Carrol Clarkson, Professor of Modern English Literature, discusses the properties of poetry and how these have changed over the years. Professor of Sign Linguistics Anne Baker elaborates on sign poetry, and how it differs from spoken and written poetry. The speakers show how there is a continuum of poetic forms, ranging from traditional Shakespeare sonnets to the theatrical shows of visual vernacular. The evening is concluded by a performance of Selena Waas, a professional poet in Dutch Sign Language (NGT). Afterwards, there is room for questions. Sign interpreters English-NGT are present, making the evening accessible for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It will be livestreamed through the Facebook-page of Alumnikring Taalwetenschap.

About the speaker

Carrol Clarkson is Professor in Modern English Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on aesthetics, legal theory, and South African literature and art. Before coming to Amsterdam she was Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Anne Baker is emeritus Professor in Psycholinguistics and Sign Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. She currently works at the University of Stellenbosch as Professor Extraordinary in Sign Linguistics, and as Visiting professor in Deaf Education at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Selena Waas used to work as a teacher of Dutch Sign Language, before she became a poet, presenter and child story teller in the same language. She offers workshops and performances to anyone interested in sign language.

Sterre Leufkens (moderator) did a PhD in theoretical and comparative linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. She now studies and teaches Dutch linguistics at Utrecht University, and publishes popular-scientific blogs, articles and books on language and linguistics.


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Location: SPUI25