Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Looked through more Ramus and Ramus related books today. I also worked through Fr. Ong's copies of the Saint Louis University Bulletin 1953-1984 and Publications and Research 1984-1994. Since the archives already has a copy of each volume, we're going to toss most of these, but Fr. Ong has corrected typos and omissions to his publications lists.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Flipped through a number of books today, more of Fr. Ong's working copies and some books on or related to Ramus. It's easy to enter into a hypnotic state when flipping through a book few or no annotations. When that starts to happen, I get up and do something else. Usually something else is browsing the filing cabinets, which are well organized and labeled, though it's taking me some time to figure out how Fr. Ong filed specific items.

In the filing cabinets I found a folder titled "Art: Some Sketches by Walter Ong." Among other things is an envelope labeled "1931-32 done during German class Rockhurst College." Most of the sketches in that envelope are of hands and heads. There's also some really good drawings of animals, which Fr. Ong copied out of a book. I want to do a multimedia piece with images, sound, text, and maybe video gathered from the archives, and if I do put it together, I want to use some of these.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I've begun working through the new material. I'm spending some time browsing the filing cabinets, but I'm to spend most of my time is going through the boxes of books. My current goal is to go through each book page by page looking for annotations, inserts, gift inscriptions, and the like. I'm to indicate each page each page that has something and then put the book on the shelf, grouping books together. So far this is slow going but the grouping is easy as I've started with Fr. Ong's working copies which are either books he's annotated for corrections/additions or teaching copies. Some highlights from today:

-A 1958 Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue which is heavily annotated and has a large number of additions to the bibliography. I've checked later editions and it appears the bibliography's never been updated.

-A teaching copy of Presence of the Word in which passages he appears to have read in class have had "or her" and "or she" written in. Notes in the margins seem to suggest that this was in 1991/92.

-Inserted at the beginning of the "Talked Book" chapter of Interfaces of the Word is a Family Circus cartoon in which the two boys run up to their grandmother, one of them holding a book above his head. The caption reads "Would you talk us a book, Grandma?"

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Preliminary inventory of Walter J Ong Collection materials received 24
August 2004

39 cardboard boxes
4 four-drawer file cabinets
1 two-drawer file cabinet
4 2-drawer stackable metal boxes
2 metal index card boxes

Cardboard boxes (descriptions taken from labels written on each box)
-Some books citing Ong's work
-Some books citing Ong's work & all of Ong's computer documents on disc
-Some dissertations directed by Ong and/or Making use of his work, presented to him by their authors (1 of 2; see box 4)
-Various articles/writings for dissertations (2 of 2l; see box 3)
-Papers on desk & bookcase by desk
-Desk ref & papers, i-card files listing all works
-Papers on desk, on top of file cabinets, in bookcase by file cabinet; desk ref.
-Desk ref & bookcase by desk
-Desk ref. books
-Papers in bookcase by file cabinet & books on poetry
-Papers/correspondence in bookcase by file cabinets
-Books: poetry, classics
-Poetry books
-Books: poetry, history
-Poetry, philosophy books
-English and American anthologies of lit
-Ref & English lit
-English lit and history
-English lit, history; PMLA
-Religious thought, Eng lit
-Religion, psychology, philosophy
-Prayer books, English lit and history
-Extra copies of books by Ong with a few extra copies of books or journal issues treating his work
-Extra offprints of articles by Ong besides those in his files, and extra copies of books containing article by him in addition to copies on shelves here below
-Linguistics/Rhetoric/Hermeneutics; books in bookcase next to bathroom
-Linguistics/Rhetoric/Hermeneutics; bookcase by bathroom
-Linguistics/Rhetoric/Hermeneutics; bookcase by bathroom
-Linguistics/Rhetoric/Hermeneutics; books from bookcase next to bathroom
-Linguistics/Rhetoric/Hermeneutics/Orality; bookcase by bathroom & ref books on desk
-John Milton complete prose works; M. McLuhan
-Invitations accepted and not accepted
-Books by Ong; working copies & works by various authors allied or sources to Ong, works on Ramus
-Books by Ong, working copies
-Wrapped books, 1 of 5
-Wrapped books, 2 of 5
-Wrapped books, 3 of 5
-Wrapped books, 4 of 5
-Wrapped books, 5 of 5

4-drawer File Cabinets
-General files, drawers 1-4
-General files, drawers 5-8
-General files, drawer 9; Publications 1-3
-Publications 4-7

2-drawer File Cabinet
-Some offprints/drafts using Ong's work and conference sessions on Ong's work, etc., drawers 1-2

4 2-drawer stackable metal boxes
-Bib cards A-D, E-EN
-Bib cards EN-PH, PH-RS
-Bib cards RS-Z; address & supplies
-Ramus materials

2 Metal index card boxes
Ramus materials
-Ramus materials

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

We moved the entire Ong collection to the library today, which means I can begin the serious work. Unfortunately, we weren't able to box up the material ourselves, but those who did pack it up kept it organized (things from the desk with things from the desk, etc.) and wrote descriptive labels on the boxes (papers on top of filing cabinets, books taken from small bookcase, etc.).

I poked around randomly in the filing cabinets and found, among other things, Ong's Rockhurst diploma, a huge file of correspondence related to the initial publication of Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue and the Ramus and Talon Inventory, including the preliminary readers reviews (one which said the entire project was a waste of time and accused Ong of being anti-Renaissance and anti-Protestant to boot), and a bib card for Lolita with Ong's teaching notes.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I read Ong's narrative of his four day trip to the U.S.S.R in July-Aug. 1968, which he took through a Finnish tour company. It's just over 40 double-spaced typed pages with a few corrections. It's not polished, but is rather a narrated account dictated to a fellow Jesuit about a month and a half after the trip. As such, it jumps around a lot.

I also looked at the slides and there aren't as many as I'd hoped. As he says in the narrative, they were only supposed to take photos when the Soviet Intourist representative told them to, but they also had much unsupervised free time so he tried to take some pictures of everyday life. Apparently, he often asked if he was taking pictures of people, and more often than not, he was told no.

Still, I think the whole thing would make an interesting piece and I'm thinking of doing it up as a Web site. The Jesuits have given the archives control of copyright (while retaining the right to money earned from the material), so there's real interest here in making some of the material digital. I'm waiting to see if anything else related to the trip comes with the rest of the collection, such as letters, a journal, or even an audio recording of the narrative (I don't know if they recorded the account or if Fr. Ong just dictated while the other Jesuit transcribed). Once I know what materials I have to work with, I'll start thinking of what digital format might be best.

As you can deduce from the above, we are not moving the material over today. Nor have we yet heard if we will be able to get the material tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Weather permitting, we hope to bring the collection over tomorrow. We'll see.

While reading "System, Space, and Intelect in Renaissance Symbolism." (Bibliotheque d'Humanism et Renaissance 18 (1956): 222-239. Rpt. Faith and Contexts: Volume Three Further Essays 1952-1990. Ed. Thomas J. Farrell and Paul A. Soukup. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995. 9-27), I realized that even if "Hollows of the Mind" [title of a chapter cut from Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue"] ultimately refers to Book X of Augustine's Confessions (and I'm not completely sure it does), it also refers to a specific idea Ong expressed earlier:

"With the invention of printing, this notion [of the book] itself undergoes metamorphosis. Rather than a record of something one had said, a book now became an object, belonging more to the world of things and less to the world of words [....] Book titles change from addresses to the reader to become labels like the labels on boxes, for, with the spread of printing, books become items manufactured like tables and chairs. As objects or things, they obviously 'contained' knowledge. And since knowledge could be 'contained' in books, why not in the mind as well?

"At this point the whole intellectual world goes hollow. The mind now 'contains' knowledge, especially in the compartments of the various arts and sciences, which in turn may 'contain' one another, and which all 'contain' words" (16).

The whole essay is quite worth reading. It's one of those key texts Ong critics ought to read before leveling their charges. In this article, Ong makes it clear that the cognitive shifts which he discusses aren't a "great leap" (to use Daniel's term) but a slow development through time connected with but not necessarily the cause of changes in communication.

Noting that Copernicus's De revolutionibus was published at the same time as Ramus' work, he writes:

"The rise of the notion of system as applied to the possessions of the mind is only one in a kaleidoscope of phenomena that mark the shift from the more vocal ancient world--truly an audile's world--to what has been called the silent, colorless, and depersonalized Newtonian universe" (25).

Saturday, August 14, 2004

I forgot to mention that the deed of gift was made on August 11, which means, one hopes, that the entire collection will move over to the library soon.

While looking through a box Fr. Ong had labled 'resources,' I came across David Bynum's article "Child's Legacy Enlarged: Oral Literary Studies at Harvard Since 1856" which was published in the Harvard Library Bulletin 22.3 (1974): 1-37. On page 8 of the article, there is a picture of Francis James Child, of English and Scottish Popular Ballads fame. The picture is of Child standing in his rose garden and for the life of me, he looks just like an old Bilbo Baggins. Not the Peter Jackson Bilbo, but the Platonic Bilbo Baggins.

Friday, August 13, 2004

One of the major misreadings of Ong's work, I think, is the belief that he believes something just magically happened, that somehow a switch in the human brain was flipped from "oral" to "literate." The fact that much of Ong's theories rely upon an auditory->visual shift which is itself tied to conceptions of space. Even this isn't a complete picture as I haven't referred to presence and a number of other things. Any way, I found the following passage interesting, not because any of it is new to me but because of how it works as a synopsis. It's from "From Allegory to Diagram in the Renaissance Mind: A Study of the Significance of the Allegorical Tableau." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 17.4 (1959): 423-440.

"Printing itself is a kind of captial phenomenon in the concentration of thought on spatial forms. With the invention of printing from movable type made from matrices struck with a punch--the essence of fifteenth-century typographical developments--meaning was committed to space or 'stored' in space in a more definitive way than ever before [my emphasis]. Picture writing had been the initial commitment of the word to space. The alphabet had gone further, breaking down the word, a denizen of the world of sound, into spatially discrete parts. But in a manuscript culture these parts or letters had had to be 'manufactured' by a scribe as they were used. They pre-existed only in his imagination. With the invention of printing from movable type, the parts or letters, and even the parts from which the letters are made (matrices and punches), are prefabricated. As maneuverable parts, the printing types are actually stored in space, in little compartments in a case, from which they are moved onto a composing stick, thence onto a stone, and finally onto a press, where multiplication is effected by mere local motion bringing paper into contact under pressure with the printing form.

"Moreover, the books which finally evolve from this process are quite different from manuscript codices with regard to the relationships of the words or 'contents' (this spatial notion of 'contents' actually comes into currency only after printing is developed). Now, for the first time, a schoolmaster can say to his class, 'Everyone turn to page 7, and in line 4 from the top of the page look at the third word from the left.' For every book in the class will have the words locked into position in exactly the same place on each page--a condition which did not obtain in a manuscript culture, where the same words were found on quite different pages and in quite different positions on the page in the various manuscript copies of a work, so that the auditory memory and not the visual tended to be the primary operative tool. But with typography, the ability to find and deal with some bit of knowledge tends to be more an operation in space than in oral mnemonics. The bright student is now rather more likely to be visile rather than audile" (435-36).

To further illustrate the importance of auditory->visual shift and spatial understanding, here's a passage from "Ramus and the Transit to the Modern Mind," originally published in Modern Schoolman 32.4 (1955): 301-11, and quoted here from An Ong Reader, 229-238.

"The study of Ramism makes it evident that to understand the history of method we have to abandon our own favorite lines of explanation and get back to the issues as they really existed. The basic issue was not the struggle between inductive and deductive method, for there never was any serious or concerted opposition to inductive method but, if anything, too much respect for it--philosophers commonly took it for granted that induction was essential groundwork and therefore that it was easy to do and needed no special attention. The basic issue was the struggle between sound and sight, between habits of thinking based on listening to voices and habits of thinking based on looking at surfaces, between living in a world inhabited by persons who talk back and living in a world occupied by passive objects scattered in 'systems' through the new Copernican space. The real obstacle in the way of fuller inductive development was not deduction but the voice and person of the teacher, who kept talking all through the scholastic centuries. The way in which teaching actually blocked observation in dissection as practiced in medical lectures has been shown by Herbert Butterfield [The Origins of Modern Science. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1950] (32-33). This situation is symptomatic of the whole state of mind at the time. But this same teacher proved all-important, nevertheless, in paving the way for a more inductive approach, since his incessant talking helped reduce the dialogue of dialectic to a monologue and thus was a preparation for the more complete elimination of personal components in the scientific situation in favor of an 'objective' apersonal approach" (236).


"This drive toward the spatial, this reinforcement of the visile component of cognition, is a drive toward the construction of the observational, depersonalized collection of objects in terms of which we picture the world today, because it is a drive to think of things as surfaces, objects, rather than as symbols or as persons with voices. But the drive in Ramus' case is completely blind: he has no noteworthy expressed partiality for an observational approach at all. What he wants is 'arts,' something to know that is clear, distinct, set down once and for all in a book, and in the last analysis, picturable--the visile Ramus is the forerunner of the visile Descartes here. At this point, the way is prepared for 'subjectivity' by the death of the element of dialogue in dialectic. The two-part Socratic personal interchange is gone, and even the monologue of the teacher is gone--in other words, persons and voice are gone. An art is now a 'thing,' not a possession of the mind but something with surface, like the rest of the coming Newtonian mind" (237).

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

From a typescript of "Hollows of the Mind," a chapter cut from the 4th book of Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue.

"A kind of climax [of Ramist method] was perhaps reached in the eighteenth century when what had once been the crown of logic is put to the service even of rat-catching in The Universal Directory for Taking Alive and Destroying Rats and All Other Kinds of Four-Footed and Winged Vermin in a Method Hitherto Unattempted (1763), published by Robert Smith who identifies himself as 'Rat-Catcher to the Princess Amelia.' This was a far cry from Aristotle and Galen, but it was congenial enough, certainly, to Smith's Hanoverian patroness, in whose ancestral German domaine, thanks to Ramism, 'method' had now usurped the prerogatives of the Pied Piper and outmoded his more vocal arrangements for dealing with vermin" (925-926).

With the Pied Piper comment, we can see Ong having some fun as he details Western culture's shift from the auditory to the visual.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

More passages from selected readings. This from "An Interview with Walter J. Ong, Conducted by George Riemer" in An Ong Reader: Challenges for Further Inquiry.

"I realized that though intellectual knowledge has likenesses to all the senses, the Greeks were thinking of it more by analogy with seeing, whereas the Hebrews thought of it more as if it were hearing. We typically think of knowledge like the Greeks. The Greek word idea has the same root as video in Latin meaning I see. We say "I see" to mean "I understand." We speak of ideas as images and viewponts. We describe them as clear, brilliant, and dazzling. Our language is shot through with figures, which “show" our visual bias. We're so immersed in it that we don't realize it's a bias--You know, like everything's wet if you grow up like a fish [....]

"I wasn't aware of how visualistic my own thinking was until I "saw" how the Hebrews regarded knowledge and I "discovered" they were doing something different. Since the Hebrews thought of knowing more by analogy with hearing, learning tended to mean listening to someone. They thought even of things as speaking, not only as showing themselves, but as declaring themselves.

"Yadha' in Hebrew means to know in the sense of to know your way around. It is something that has to do with the human lifeworld and human behavior.

"Knowing for the Greek means to be able to explain. It means to analyze, to take apart, to show the different pieces of. It's a very abstract knowledge. Our Greek visualist bias shows when we try to provide a rational explanation for everything. This can't always be had, and the attempt to set it up becomes more and more suspect the closer we get to the source of life. There is a kind of wisdom you cultivate in not being excessively rational" (80-81).

Friday, August 06, 2004

Posted to TechRhet earlier today:

Any way, in a box of Fr. Ong's lectures, I found "The End of the Age of Literacy," the origins of which date back to a short piece Fr. Ong wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April, 1959. In that piece as well as its later versions, Fr. Ong cites the shift to secondary orality as a factor in the decline of reading. He also calls into question the notion that there ever was a golden age of reading. The lecture I have before me begins:

"One hears a great deal of protest today about the lack of interest in reading. Much of this protest is justified, but the implication which it often carries is not, for it often implies that matters used to be greatly different, that educators a hundred years ago or more did a better job of teaching both reading and writing. That they did is by no means certain. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence indicating quite the opposite. Bad as we are today, our predecessors were very likely even worse."

I think it's interesting to note that the typescript I have here says that it is a 1972 revision of a 1960 draft which developed out of that 1959 article. Handwritten annotations indicate that it was also used in 1980. I realize the current "crisis" is with literary reading and that many people on this list pointed to the proliferation of non-literary reading digital media has provided, as well as the creative and narrative texts electronic and digital media offer us. And that is, exactly, the point.

As you might imagine, I'm deeply immersed in things Ongian these days (even more than I have been), and I'm struck at how shallow _Orality and Literacy_ is (and I'd even read _Presence of the Word_, _Interfaces of the Word_, and _Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology_ as well as other pieces before this summer). _Orality and Literacy_ is but a tip of an iceberg, and it is so often misread or misunderstood when read without the larger context of his greater corpus (the whole Great Leap debate is a prime example of where too little reading of Ong's works leads to wild misunderstandings). While I haven't made a systematic attempt to do so, I can date his earliest treatment of the technologies of language to a 1944 PMLA essay on "Historical Backgrounds of Elizabethan and Jacobean Punctuation Theory." And I wouldn't be surprised if the theory predates that.

In his 1987 dissertation, Anthony Joseph Palmeri identified a number of metarhetorical principles which can be derived from Ong's work, one of the most important of which, I believe, is that research should be both synchronic and diachronic. I've come to call this "taking the long view." And, I think, this long view is all too often missing from reports that literacy or reading is in decline. Fr. Ong rarely, if ever comes right out and says this. He just gives you the long view.

Since I'm just sort of rambling here, let me close with the last paragraph of "The End of the Age of Literacy" since I'd given you the beginning:

"And so the future is already here. We have entered into a world of communication which we are only beginning to understand. Aristotle said that in his day the Greeks had no word for 'literature.' (If they had no word for literature, don't ask me how he said that.) Today we have no word for this new thing. I would suggest that it might be called a 'presentation.' But maybe that comes from an older world and does not hit off what we really have today. What we do have is complicated: all the past and the present and the future, too. We have a lot of work ahead."

Monday, August 02, 2004

Another quote found while doing the inventory:

Ong, Walter J. "A Comment by Walter J. Ong, S.J." College English 40 (1979): 871-73 [Fr. Ong was responding to Diana Hume George's "The Miltonic Ideal: A Paradigm fore the Structure of Relations Between Men and Women in Academia." College English 40 (1979): 864-870, in which George argues Ong wanted a return to the good old days before women were a part of academia]:

"[…] in my experience mere description of the successive stages of consciousness with their different psychic structures brings many readers or hearers to decide that you have adjudicated one of the stages as better than the other. When I have described and differentiated primary (preliterate) oral culture and subsequent literate culture, in reacting to the same text of mine some persons have accused me of being pro-oral and others of being pro-literate [….] There was the old agonistic world. It is no more. The fact that I do not condemn its existence in the past does not mean that I would want its continuance" (872-73).

As Ong notes in that short piece, to discuss something such as primary orality or literacy or the old agonistic world "positively" is not the same thing as advocating it as a model for contemporary life or to argue that it was a better system than our present one. Ong's term "positively" in this article does not mean to write of something to praise it, but to study it on its own terms, i.e. to study primary orality as a system with its own affordances and constraints rather than study it through the lens of literacy and think of it as primitive or savage or impoverished. A major part of this is the understanding that a while Ong's study of the technologizing of the word and the cognitive shifts that occur with it is the study of the stages of consciousness, these stages are not hierarchal in the sense of bad to good but rather hierarchal in the sense that it is a one-way movement through time. As explained in my post of June 22, once you have cognitively interiorized literacy, you can't unlearn that cognitive shift. (However, if we were to take a newborn child or group of newborn children and were to somehow raise them to an entirely non-cognitively literate environment, they would probably develop a primarily oral consciousness.

One might ask whether we, as individuals, move through primary orality to literacy to secondary orality (or straight to secondary orality) in our own cognitive development. I'm not a cognitive psychologist, so I can't say for sure, but what I do know is that our memories consist of three codes: the semantic, the verbal, and the visual. Our semantic code is “the key to the whole operation of memory," that it is a “mental map” which governs how our minds work. Studies have found that our semantic code is largely fixed in early childhood and that it is based upon our immediate environment, meaning that if we are raised within an environment of literacy or secondary orality, then those cognitive structures are encoded into us well before we learn how to read.