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Forging Deaf Education in Nineteenth-Century France

Forging Deaf Education in Nineteenth-Century France

Author: Ferdinand Berthier, Edited and Translated by Freeman G. Henry

Published by: Gallaudet University Press, 2009

 "In 1811, deaf student Ferdinand Berthier commenced his education at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris under its director Abbé Sicard and his teachers Auguste Bébian, Jean Massieu, and Laurent Clerc.  Their tutelage eventually led Berthier to join the faculty at the Institute and become a life-long proponent of sign language and Deaf culture.

Berthier earned fame for instituting the famous silent banquets in Paris in 1834. He also learned to advance his agenda by writing biographies of important figures who advocated sign over oralism to educate deaf French students. Forging Deaf Education in Nineteenth-Century France  offers the first translation of Berthier’s biographical sketches of the four men above who influenced him most.

Berthier wrote first about Bébian in 1839, timed to advocate sign language for teaching deaf students after the departure of the pro-oralism Institute Director Désiré Ordinaire. Berthier extolled Bébian’s linguistic acumen and his educational philosophy.

In later sketches, however, he described Sicard and Massieu in positive terms but also criticized them for supporting “methodical” signing, which conformed to spoken language conventions.

In contrast, he lauded Clerc in his portrayal for using “natural” signing to teach deaf students.

The incisiveness of Freeman G. Henry’s introduction and the clarity of his translations will enthrall readers now able to read Berthier’s biographies in English for the first time.

Ferdinand Berthier (1803–1886) was President of the Société Centrale des Sourds-Muets, Dean of the Royal Deaf Institute of Paris, and a member of the Historical Institute of France."