House and Home in Sign Language Poetry

Rachel L Sutton-Spence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


In consideration of ‘Deaf Spaces’, five British Sign Language poems on the subject of ‘Home’ are analysed here to explore the language and themes that express Deaf poets’ ideas of home. Gulliver (2006) claims that ‘Deaf space’ can be measured and mapped but also produces a context for doing and being. The poems here show how the physical structure of a house and the abstract idea of a home create contexts of space in which Deaf poets can ‘do’ deafness and ‘be’ fulfilled Deaf people. In considering this small but important area of Deaf space we learn more about the semantics of the term ‘home’ and the metonyms and metaphors related to the concept. The significance of the form of poetic sign language used to express these ideas is highlighted because the way that signers play with language, as they choose, use, manipulate and create visual signs reflects, and draws attention to, Deaf poets’ ideas of home. Following Bahan’s (2008) identification of windows and doors as motifs characterising Deaf and Hearing Spaces, we find prominent structural metonyms of walls and doors, but relatively few references to windows. The concept of home in the poems is used to reflect mind and self, as well as cultural belonging. We see expressions of home as a place of safety, where a Deaf person can feel comfortable and reveal their true selves, and home as an idea of coming to know one’s self as a proud signing Deaf person. Thus, while the signed poems clearly express a Deaf sense of home, they show images that can contribute to a universal understanding of what it means to be home.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCartografias da Surdez: (Cartographies of Deafness)
Subtitle of host publication Comunidades, Línguas, Práticas e Pedagogias (Communities, Languages, Practices and Pedagogies)
EditorsOrquídea Coelho, Madalena Klein
PublisherCIIE/FPCEUP/Editora Livpsic
Publication statusIn preparation - 2013


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