In my research about Laurent Clerc, I am often brought to the point of asking myself what the motivations were for Laurent to accept the idea that it would be better to immigrate to a young United States versus staying put and working in the Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris. What were his possibilities there or what obstacles did he face in this milieu to meeting his own needs? Was his desire to go to America part of some missionary zeal or leaving a place where his future prospects seemed limited?
It is also a question that I get from others that contemplate his life and his legacy. Most are glad that he made the decision as it impacted the American Deaf people greatly. Less are concerned of his motivations and prefer to focus on the origin story that is early history of the Deaf American education.
But for someone like myself, who is the direct genetic result of Laurent's decision to make the pilgrimage in 1816, the full scope of his motivations fascinates me. This is why, when I came across this article by Sophia Rosenfeld, The Political Uses of Sign Language (Sign Language Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1 (Fall 2005), pp. 17-37 (21 pages) Published By: Gallaudet University Press)
**A reminder that the JSTOR site on which this article resides is accessible by signing up for a free account and it is full of really cool stuff!
This article was very enlightening and while I struggle with deep thinking, which means it will take time to unpack it all, it seems to be sort of a gateway into the milieu created by the Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire and the coming Bourbon Restoration, into which Laurent entered at 12 years old.
It gives me my first real consolidation of what Sicard was doing and what might have impacted development of Laurent as an educated, political and maybe even a revolutionary being. A wonderful jumping off point to answer some of my burning questions. This is really a good read and recommend it highly. Bravo Sophia and thank you.