From Publishers Weekly
It has long been understood that the communicative gestures used by non-hearing people constitute more than a languageAthere is, in fact, a deaf culture, rich in evocation, style, meaning. R?e (professor of philosophy at the University of Middlesex and editor of Radical Philosophy) brings us a stunning account of deafness from the 16th century to the present. His compelling chapters draw upon metaphysics, science, history and philosophy as they touch upon such areas as grammar, sound and the uncanny resonances of inarticulate human sounds; time, syntax and the language of nature; signs and primitive culture; and space, time and the aesthetic theory of art, among much else. Graphics from a variety of eras and cultures enrich this exceptionally comprehensive volume. R?e (who is not deaf) uses everyday experiences to buttress what might be abstract points. He is equally adept at exploring the science of deaf culture: "The mere fact that signers can make different linguistic signs simultaneously with each hand, and possibly with other parts of the body as well, means that any Sign Language script will have to be written in more than one string of charactersAmore like polyphony than a single vocal line." Mixing the erudite with the experiential, R?e gives the reader a new understanding of deafness as possibility. Though densely written, this is a book that rewards patient attention: it is both useful in the classroom and a passionate experience for the intellectual, curious reader. Illus. (Nov.)
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From Scientific American
Rée, who teaches philosophy at Middlesex University in England, presents a book that is both philosophy and science. In the two mainly philosophical parts, he considers how people have viewed the five human senses over the centuries. In the mainly scientific part, he focuses on one of the senses, hearing, and its close connection with speech, by way of examining the experience of people who lack the sense--who are deaf. "Ever since the sixteenth century," he notes, "they have been attended by troops of priests, doctors, teachers and philanthropists dedicated to releasing them from their silent world (or perhaps expelling them from it against their will), by devising ways of making them understand language, despite their inability to hear it." Rée bolsters his history of those efforts with a number of unusual pictures, among them a French "voice machine" of 1908 that synthesized vowel sounds by pumping air past rotating perforated disks and then through rubber replicas of human mouths.