In 1976, Trent Batson and Eugene Bergman released their classic Angels and Outcasts: An Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature. In it, they featured works from the 19th and 20th centuries by well-known authors such as Charles Dickens and Eudora Welty. They also presented less-well-known deaf authors, and they prefaced each excerpt with remarks on context, societal perceptions, and the dignity due to deaf people. Since then, much has transpired, turning around the literary criticism regarding portrayals of deaf people in print. Edna Edith Sayers reflects these changes in her new collection Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature.
Sayers mines the same literary vein as the first volume with rich new results. Her anthology also introduces rare works by early masters such as Daniel Defoe. She includes three new deaf authors, Charlotte Elizabeth, Howard T. Hofsteater, and Douglas Bullard, who offer compelling evidence of the attitudes toward deaf people current in their eras. In search of commonalities and comparisons, Sayers reveals that the defining elements of deaf literary characters are fluid and subtly different beyond the predominant dueling stereotypes of preternaturally spiritual beings and thuggish troglodytes.
Outcasts and Angels demonstrates these subtle variations in writings by Ambrose Bierce, Isak Dinesen, Nadine Gordimer, and Flannery O’Connor. Stories by Juozas Grušas, Julian Barnes, and many other international authors broaden the scope of this updated inquiry into the deaf literary character. Sayer’s preface and closing essay bring any disparate parts together, completing Outcasts and Angels as a fitting, contemporary companion to the original classic collection.