Friday, July 30, 2004

More quotes:

From Anthony Palmeri's dissertation (Wayne State University, 1987), "Walter J. Ong's Perspectives on Rhetorical Theory."
Some metarhetorical principles Palmeri derived from Ong's works, discussed on pages 166-179:

  • "Rhetoric may be given meaning by relating it to larger cultural developments."

  • "The rhetorician can better understand the history of rhetoric by looking for metarhetorics that have operated in the past."

  • "Research should be synchronic and diachronic."

  • "A theory of rhetoric is made more meaningful with knowledge of the dominant media in use.

  • "The Ciceronian Principle: The rhetorician gains more understanding through an interdisciplinary approach to research."

  • "Knowledge of Western rhetorical practices is given fuller meaning upon observation of practices in non-Western cultures."

In response to claims that Cole and Scribner's The Psychology of Literacy refutes Ong's theories of orality and literacy, Palmeri notes that while the Vai of Liberia did learn a writing system, they did not learn an alphabetic one. He writes: "Thus Cole and Scribner are inherently supporting the Ong/Havelock view which says that the alphabetic writing system only can provide these cognitive changes" (182-83).

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Interesting quotes I've found while working on the inventory July 28:

From a review of Ong's work in the Globe-Democrat, May 31-June 1, 1975

"He was a McLuhanist before McLuhan" (1F).

From Paul Lippert's dissertation, "Detechnologizing the Study of the Word: Method and Thought of Walter Jackson Ong." New York University, 1990

"His analysis always moves from the text back to its source in a living consciousness, then out into the culture that sustains that consciousness, and then, as his studies mature, to the technological structures that mediate that culture's relation to the material world" (227).

"In his emphasis on the word's primary existence as sound and its relation to both time and thought, set as it is in the evolution of history, it can also be seen that, for Ong, no system of thought is immune to history. Even technologized methods of inquiry represent but a moment in a dialogue. Understanding can best be approached through an appreciation of the open quality of dialogue itself, which cannot be systematized or technologized in any close way. Rather than looking at objects from a fixed point of view, as we are encouraged to do from a technologized word, Ong urges methods of inquiry that are more like listening, in that they are sensitive to the living presence behind all discourse, engaged as it is in evolving dialogue of history" (236-37).

Monday, July 26, 2004

Some excerpts from "The Power and Myster of Words," Saint Louis University Magazine 45.5 (1972): 4-6.

"Instruction and research in a university are inseparable from deep involvement with language. Today we sometimes hear how primitive peoples entertain the bizarre idea that words give you power over things, as though this were a belief which intelligent persons can no longer tolerate. But words do give you power over things. Can you imagine studying mathematics or physics without learning the words these sciences work with? If you want power over chemicals, you had better learn their names and a lot of related words besides. No vocabulary, no scientific control. A computer's work means nothing unless somewhere along the line someone says what it means. Without words, we are helpless" (4).

"Let us start from a prime truth about words. Words are sounds. They are not 'signs' in a strict sense at all. 'Sign' suggests at root something visually apprehended, coming from the Latin signum, which referred to the standard that ancient Roman military units carried aloft to identify themselves to the eye. This is not what a word is. Real words cannot be seen. They can only be heard. If they are in some ways like a 'sign,' they are also fundamentally quite different. You need words to tell you what signs mean more than you need signs to tell you what words mean. Can you draw a picture of a sound? Or a picture expressing what each individual word in this paragraph means? A picture of 'about'? To show what 'about' looks like? Or 'like'? Or of 'which'? Or 'suggests'? Or a picture of 'fundamentally'? Not pictures which you say mean these things, but pictures which simply do?" (5).

"We often think of words as 'media,' or of communication as existing in a 'medium.' This is another attempt to picture words, to project them on a visual field, and it creates as many difficulties as it solves. A medium means something inbetween. What words do is precisely annihilate the in-betweennes which separates you from me and me from you. When I speak to you, I am inviting you to enter into my consciousness, and I am entering into yours. When you listen to me, you pretend that you are saying the same things I say to find whether they make sense. When I speak, I listen to myself to see if I am making sense to you. The listener speaks while the speaker listens. Words are invitations to community, to sharing, to existence in a non-medium" (6).

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I spent most of today making an inventory of the three boxes of typescripts Fr. Ong had sent over before 1995. The most interesting was Ramus Method and the Decay of Dialogue. There were two complete typescripts, one a working "rough" typescript and the other was a press copy with annotations for the printing. I learned that at one point, the title of Ramus was The Clunch Fist of Method: Ramus, Topical Logic, and the Hollows of the Mind. I also learned that there were two additional chapters, ch. 14: The Hollows of the Mind, and ch. 15: The Decay of Dialogue and the Nature of Man, which got cut late in the process. I first found them in the working draft, and was then surprised to find them in the press copy. I haven't spent enough time yet to say for sure, but I think at least some of these two chapters are unpublished. I list the typescripts in the July 14 entry.

After moving through the typescripts, I began making an inventory of the articles Fr. Ong had sent over in 1995. I got through 1962. Among other things, I learned that there was an Albertus Magnus Guild and they published a bulletin. Google doesn't pull up any signs of current life for the guild, but you can read about old Albertus, one of my favorite medieval scholars, at wikipedia. Huh, there's a Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT.

I met the audio-visual archivist today, who had been on a trip out of the country. He's keen to scan Fr. Ong's slides and to work with the audio recordings. Once things start going, I really want to start work on a New Media piece using materials from the collection.

On Monday, I spent the first part of the morning hunting down 30+ Ramus books in our pre-1800 rare book stacks. We'd gotten a query about a Ramus book in the collection that Fr. Ong had identified as being annotated by Ramus himself. Unfortunately, the majority of our 7000 pre-1800 books are not yet cataloged. Most of them are in a database, though. I say most because I did some shelf reading to look for one that was misshelved and found 2 not in the database. The good news is that the library is planning on hiring someone to catalog all those rare books sometime in the near future, and I was pulling all the Ramus books for cataloging to process now.

I also finished the Lecture inventory, and found more pieces that have never been published. One had the note: "Never published. Can be used if and after "A Writer's Audience is Always a Fiction" is published. I'm looking into how some of this unpublished material can be published. I also saw a fascinating lecture based upon the review of Yates' The Art of Memory. There were two earlier lectures, one dating back to 1958 or so, that had fed into it. I want to go back and take a closer look at the following lectures

  • "Oral Performance, Writing, and Audiences" (9/27/67)

  • Yates' review

  • "Aphorisms Regarding the Media and the Senses" (1968)

  • Rhetoric, Commonplaces, and Shakespeare" (11/5/63)

Working through these lectures has been very cool. You can see ideas and themes developing over time.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Lectures I want to go back and look at:

  • sections taken out of Presence of the Word

  • "Sound-Sight Split in Latin," (N.D.); discussion of glamour/grammar, two words which Tolkien plays with in "Farmer Giles of Ham"

  • "Remembrance: The Past as Life for the Future," (1976); discarded from "Maramantha"

  • "Primary Oral Culture and the Literate Mind," (1975)

  • "Media Transformed: The Talked Book," (1975); compare with printed versions?

  • "Oral Culture and the Literate Mind," (1977); how different from 1975?

  • "Orality and Literacy: Medieval and Renaissance Phases," (1983)

  • "Biblical Text as Interpretation," (1984); relies on Stock's notion of textual communities

  • "MLA Talk: Print Culture," (1984)

  • "MLA Talk: Literacy Studies," (1984)

  • "Medieval and Renaissance Anthologizing: A Stage of Consciousness," (1985)

  • "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought," (1984)

  • "Writing: The Technology that Resturctures Thought," (1985)

Spent Thursday and Friday taking an inventory of a box labeled "lectures" which Fr. Ong had given the library in 1995. A note included with the box states that many but not all the lectures had been published in one form or another, sometimes under very different titles. Many have corrections, annotations, and suggested changes for different audiences. To give an example, one of the most complicated I've found, the talk "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought" seems to have been given 5/12/84 and 10/26/84, has an alternative opening which was used in 1/22/85, and was retitled "The Transformation of Orality by Literacy" for 4/11/87. I haven't bothered to work out which sections were read at which times, though my impression is that the annotations are clear enough it should usually be possible. And to make this even more complex, there's a different folder with the lecture "Writing: The Technology that Restructures Thought" which was delivered 10/10/85 and 4/4/86. It should be interesting to see how the two lectures and their variations differ, but that's a job for much later on.

Every time I look at the various materials, I'm struck by just how meticulous Fr. Ong was in keeping notes and records

I have found many cool pieces, including sections taken out of the Presence of the Word and Interfaces of the Word. One short piece which caught my eye was "Remembrance: The Past as Life for the Future," discarded from "Maranatha: Death and Life in the Text of the Book" (which is ch. 9 of IW. In it, Fr. Ong makes some of the same claims about literature as memory that I've been making in my dissertation.

Thursday afternoon, John Waide and I met with Fr. Padberg, the rector of the Jesuit community on campus. We've cleared a working and storage space for the project in the archive/rare book stacks by moving some post-1800 books, and we can now have the entire Ong collection moved over from Jesuit Hall. There are 39 archive boxes, 18 deep file cabinet drawers, a number of metal boxes with note cards, and some miscellaneous boxes. We randomly pulled a folder out of one of the file cabinets and found in it a typescript, some letters relating to it, and a reel-to-reel audio tape.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Reading around in some Ong offprints yesterday, I came across "Media
Transformed: The Talked Book" College English (Dec. 1972): 405-410, which made me think of Rich Rice's C&W 2004 presentation. The article is based on the experience of giving a taped interview, which was followed up by two additional interviews, which lead to a book that was supposed to represent a one-on-one discussion between the interviewer and Ong (Ong helped edit the book as well). Any way, two passages that stuck out are:

"A new medium of verbal communication not only does not wipe out the old, but actually reinforces the older medium or media. However, in doing so it transforms the old, so that the old is no longer what it used to be. Applied to books, this means that in the foreseeable future there will be more books than ever before but that books will no longer be what books used to be. If you think of books even today as working the same way books worked for Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas or Chaucer or Milton or Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, you are out of touch with the way things are" (405).

"Here we see the full complexity of the interaction of the media as sucessive media evolve. We have already seen that a new medium reinforces the earlier media by radically transforming them or, if you wish, radically transforming them by reinforcing them. Now we can see that part of the transformation is effected because the new medium feeds back into the old medium or media and makes them redulent of the new. the conventionally produced book can now sound to some some degree like the orally programmed book" (407).

Rich Rice's presentation, in short and in the terms Ong uses above, explored New Media's radical transformation of books such as Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I spent the first part of the day browsing through the 13 boxes of material Fr. Ong sent to the archives over the years (we hope to have the rest of the collection moved over to the library by the end of next week). Browsed through 3 boxes of typescripts which included various drafts of RamusDialogue and Decay, the Talon Inventory, In the Human Grain, Presence of the Word, Knowledge and the Future of Man, Interfaces of the Word, Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology, Fighting for Life, Hopkins, Self, and God, and Orality and Literacy.

Also browsed 3 boxes of "works," mostly offprints but some typescripts of adresses, papers, and the account of his 1968 trip to Leningrad. I'm taken by the idea of putting together an electronic text which combines the account with the slides. After browsing through the works boxes, I read "Media Transformed: The Talked Book" (1972) and "History and the Future of Verbal Media" (1974), which is an expanded version of "Media Transformed." I should have completed the set by reading the 1975 "Translated Media: The Talked Book," but I integrated some additional offprints instead. While the general rule for archiving is not to modify or change the arrangement or collection, the decision has been made that Fr. Ong's intent was to establish a comprehensive collection, so we're filling in the gaps as we can.

After integrating the extra works, I browsed the three offprint boxes (offprints of other people's work that were given to Fr. Ong). Most, but not all are signed. A not entirely random sampling include works by Eric Auerback, Kennith Burke, Peter Elbow, Richard Enos, John Miles Foley, Henry Louis Gates, Eric Havelok (includes a photocopied trypescript draft of the first chapter to A Greek Muse Learns to Write and a short proposed chapter by chapter summary for the rest of the book), Ivan Illich, Marshall McLuhan, and Deborah Tannen.

After lunch, I spent some time reading Ong-related material (I'm supposed to read more than I have as to better evaluate what we have). I decided to start Beth Daniels' dissertation. I'm trying to be generous in my reading of it, but no matter how hard I try, I can't read it as anything but a misreading/misunderstanding of Ong. And when I do find myself agreeing with what she is saying, she's not aruging with Ong but with others who are citing Ong to help bolster their own arguments, or she is arguing with people who discuss, in broad terms, the same sorts of issues as Ong. The problem is, it seems to me, her method of critique is to argue "these people are wrong, and because these people cite Ong or talk about the same issues as Ong, Ong is wrong."

I don't work tomorrow, but I'll post some cool quotes I found today.

Monday, July 12, 2004

First day today. I got a tour of the St. Louis Room, home of the rare books and archives, and got an intro to archiving crash course.

I also started looking over some material Fr. Ong had sent over throughout the years (we just got the space cleared out today, so the rest of the collection will hopefully be moved over in the next few weeks). I mostly just browsed today to start getting a feel for things. Among other things, I came across:

  • A few audio recordings of lectures and interviews, mostly on audio cassette but at least one recording burned to CD,

  • An archive box full of typed lectures, many with handwritten annotations and corrections. Most, but not all, according to the letter from Fr. Ong, have been published in one form or another. Can't wait to dig more deeply into that box.

  • 7 slide boxes. 6 boxes taken during 1950-53 while in Europe doing research in Europe and includes a few slides of the only oil panting of Peter Ramus known to Fr. Ong. There are also slides from a trip to the USSR in 1968 and the 1968 Wenner-Gren Foundation conference.

  • Two small index card boxes with bibliographic references (sometimes annotated or with a quoted passage) for Orality and Literacy, Milton, Logic, and Fighting for Life.

The hope is that the collection's finding guide will be our first done using Encoded Archival Description.

Cool quote, from Neilsen, Mark. "A Bridge Builder: Walter Ong at 80." America Nov. 21, 1992. 13-14:

"The seminal discovery of his long career came nearly 40 years ago. 'It happened while I was doing my dissertation research in France,' recalls Ong. 'I was reading Rudolph Bultmann, the Protestant theologian, who made reference to the idea that knowing, for the Hebrews, had to do with hearing and sound, while for the Greeks thought of knowing was related to seeing. I guess it took me about a day, but suddenly, I could see how the whole thing fit together.'

"[....] Working in the reserve book room of the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, Ong saw for the first time that print, and writing before it, located knowledge in space, in words on a page, rather than in the temporal world of sound."