CJ Jones is a famous deaf storyteller who makes a living performing to deaf and hearing audiences all over the world. Storytelling plays a huge part in deaf culture. While it often does not include the human voice, voice is none the less present in how the teller connects to the audience. It gives the teller the freedom to openly express their message through gestures and facial expressions. ASL is a visual and gestural language and is often seen as a simple way of communication compared to English. In many ways, ASL is more complex than other languages because of the intensive use of imagery involved. As a branch of storytelling, it is often overlooked because of its no-voice aspect, but remains a prominent form of storytelling to many communities.

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6 Responses to

  1. Miriam Beit-Aharon says:

    I am so glad you posted this – it was an important thing to bring up and as a person starting to learn sign language it is inspirational to me. Thank you.

    Seccondly though, I really loved how he was using voices without any sound. It was so clear that there were three different characters (besides the narrator) based on his facial expressions and the way he did the signes and moved.

  2. Walker says:

    This is a very interesting performance in terms of what we’ve been talking about in class dealing the “nature” of storytelling, and what separates it from other types of performance. For me, the most prominent element brought to light is the real-time audience connection. The physicality of the person in the room playing off the energy of everyone around them. This storytelling performance, it seems to me, was engaging and interesting to deaf and hearing audiences because of the physicality and connection between the storyteller, the interpreter, and the audience.

  3. Amara Taylor says:

    I really like how Jones puts the humor into the story of his hearing loss. Often, deafness is assosiated with lack of understanding and blandness, and the way he communicates through both noise and silence is very powerful. His choice in where to put noises (the dramatic parts) and how to use his physical body is important. Nate (the original poster) once told me that 90% of sign language is in the eyes. That’s what stuck with me the most while I watched this video. It was a lot of fun, and hearing the words come from someone else was nice.

  4. Ian L-S says:

    As someone who isn’t fluent in sign language, I have to rely on the translator to fully understand the story being told. Watching this, it is interesting to note the points in the telling in which the the translator stops and allows Jones to tell the story to those who don’t sign unaided. Though he tells the story on his own, to reach a wider audience he has to have the added element of the translator. Perhaps what is most interesting about this instance of storytelling, and others like it, is that this personal story is told symbiotically. It is also different from the translation of a story in another language, because here the spoken language of the story’s native teller is still English and there is little cultural difference between teller and translator/audience.

  5. Julia Foote says:

    I really loved this video. I think that as (aspiring) storytellers, we can all learn a lot from watching CJ Jones tell his story. The life and energy he puts into the story he tells shows how much more there is to storytelling than just what words you say and how you say them. The translator does put energy into her voice, but his story would have been just as engaging and full of life with a less expressive translator or even with subtitles. I think we can pick up a lot about the non-verbal aspects of creating stories from watching CJ perform. I especially enjoyed the portions of CJ’s story that were told without words. It was really impressive that these sections not only added richness to the story and to the world he was creating, but also furthered the narrative the was telling, all without words. It really impressed upon me that sounds and actions can not only add riches to stories, but can also be used to tell the stories. Great video!

  6. Lena Jo Beckenstein says:

    I was also interested in how translation functioned in this video. ASL doesn’t translate word for word into English, and I found myself picking out sections where I felt like I wasn’t really getting CJ Jones’s exact words. But even when I wasn’t getting his exact words, I didn’t feel left out of the story. This made me think that stories are far more than words, and while things definitely can get “lost in translation,” not everything has to. A few summers ago, I saw a one-woman show called My Life With Men and Other Animals by Maria Cassi, which was basically her telling stories of her life. The catch was that about 70% of it was in Italian. I, who speak no Italian but am Italian, felt like I got almost the entire story. But I knew other folks who were not Italian and felt like they missed out on the story. It makes me wonder how important points of connection (like a shared cultural history) between audience and storyteller when the audience doesn’t speak the same language as the storyteller.
    Maybe even if stories lose words in translation, they gain something else, some other ephemeral quality that you can only pick up on only if you know that to understand the story, you have to look beyond the words.

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