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Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf First Edition Edition

38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520060838
ISBN-10: 0773723749
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Neurologist Sacks ( The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat ) has interviewed disoriented children who lost the sense of hearing before they acquired language skills. Prelingual deafness, he speculates, may be a hidden scourge that stunts the intellectual and emotional development of untold thousands. At the opposite pole of such impoverishment are the philosophy classes and sign-language theatrical events he attended at Gallaudet University, a liberal-arts college for the deaf in Washington, D.C. In an extraordinarily moving and thought-provoking report, he scrutinizes the history of treatment of the deaf, investigates the expressive capabilities of sign language and gauges the linguistic and social pressures faced by deaf people. The closing section documents a 1988 student revolt at Gallaudet that led to the appointment of the school's first deaf president. Illustrations.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Sacks, a neurologist and author of the popular The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat ( LJ 2/15/86), developed a serious interest in sign language and deafness after reviewing Harlan Lane's When the Mind Hears ( LJ 10/15/84 ) for the New York Review of Books . In this work, Sacks explores all facets of the deaf world--he meets with deaf people and their families and visits schools for the deaf, spending a good deal of time at Gallaudet University. As he writes, "I had now to see them in a new, 'ethnic light,' as people with a distinctive language, sensibility, and culture of their own." The work is divided into three broad sections, throughout which there are numerous, somewhat distracting footnote "excursions." Although there is a wealth of insight and information here, the book tends to drag for the average reader and may disappoint fans of Sacks's previous best seller. Recommended for scholars and graduate collections.
- Debra Berlanstein, Towson State Univ., Baltimore
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (August 2, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773723749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520060838
  • ASIN: 0520060830
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

OLIVER SACKS was born in 1933 in London and was educated at the Queen's College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings.

Dr. Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote a number of books--including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations--about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as "the poet laureate of medicine," and he received many awards, including honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal College of Physicians. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015.

Sacks' work has inspired many adaptations, including the Oscar-nominated film of Awakenings starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, a play by Harold Pinter, and several works by Peter Brook.

Gratitude will be published on November 24, 2015.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on February 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this extraordinary study, Dr. Sacks gives the general reader a penetrating insight into the world of the deaf. In his acclaimed "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat", as a practicing neurologist, he brought his readers into the bizarre world of terrible brain related illnesses, presenting twenty-four cases of individuals afflicted with such diseases as agnosia or prosopagnosia, where "normal" reality is turned inside out, and how some of these diseases are treated and how the patients cope with their condition. In "Seeing Voices", he permits us entry into the silent, at times strange, though culturally rich world of the congenitally and pre-lingually deaf.

As someone who has had no previous experience or knowledge in this area, for me this text opened a whole new area of culture and history that is continually growing and developing.

Sacks' explores the nature of language, touching upon Noam Chomsky's paradigm-shifting studies, "Syntactic Structures", "Cartesian Linguistics" and Language of Mind", where he proposes his theory that language is innate, lying dormant until it is made active through human interaction and culture. Sacks connects these theories to the pre-lingual deaf and its implications and manifestations.

We are also given a history lesson on the language of SIGN, how it has developed, why it was jettisoned, out of ignorant prejudice, in the late nineteenth century, and its miraculous come back in the twentieth century. Through Sacks' concise and straightforward prose, he connects us to the foreign world of another language not depended on speech, its intricacies and its wonder, and how those of us who have the ability to hear and to verbalize, all too often take language for granted.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Peter Castaldi on December 29, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Seeing Voices gives a clear answer to the question, "Which comes first? Language or thought." The answer, "Language." As Sacks retells stories of the profoundly deaf deprived of "language" into early adulthood, the pattern emerges: Without language there is no abstraction, no ability to achieve love or communication, and all life becomes an inarticulate groaning to have basic needs met immediately. There is no sense of time - life becomes an eternal present. The discovery of language leads to intense sadness as one realizes the lonely prison they have been in. In a long life of reading, this is the first book I immediately re-read on completing it the first time.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carlberg on December 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
I concur with my colleague Kex86, this is an excellent mediation on what it means to think.
Sacks acknowledges the substantial Deaf (with a capital 'D') political movement that feels deafness is not a disability, but a completely different way to experience the world. The unsurpassed richness of Sign -- and the thought patterns supported by it -- will cause many a "deafness-impaired" hearing person to give consideration to this view.
As always, Oliver is erudite, compassionate, witty and insightful. A delightful and thought-provoking book -- in ANY language.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I was "forced" to read Sacks' book for my Cognition class in university this past year. However, once I started getting into the book, it actually became a joy to read as Sacks poured his enthusiasm and wonder about the world of the deaf onto every page. I was soon finished and looking forward to the paper I was required to write on the book. However, as noted in many other comments, the long footnotes were incredibly distracting, many of them turning over for three pages, after which it was necesaary to go back and re-read everything you'd just finished looking at in the main article. His repetition at the beginning and end of the book also got annoying. On the whole, though, I quite enjoyed Oliver Sacks' book and am interested in reading more of his works now.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Oliver Sacks, the author of Awakenings, presents an overview of deafness and deaf culture. The book is written in three parts. Part 1 covers a history of deafness with the first deaf schools in France. The history examines the controversy between the oral method and sign language.
Part 2 extensively looks at sign as a distinct language with its own syntax and grammar.
Part 3 is an excellent synopsis of the 1988 uprising at Gallaudet University over the selection of a new president.
This book offers a fascinating overview of deaf culture by a talented writer.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
I love Oliver Sacks's writing because of his excitement, even his passion that he brings to his subjects. In every book of his that I have read, he has infected me with his sense of amazement at the puzzles of the human brain. Even after studying neurology I learned a lot about deafness and language from this book. However, I found the writing to be redundant and the editing to be poor. When he started to repeat the same ideas over and over again I started wondering whether this book had not originally been just a long article for the New York Review of Books. Moreover, many of the most interesting ideas were relegated to the footnotes and this made for very choppy reading. In short, I will always remain a big fan of Oliver Sacks, but I think his writing has improved a lot since he wrote this and I sure won't miss the footnotes if he leaves them out of his next book.
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