Wednesday, November 17, 2004

During M/MLA, I was asked if I'd come across any notes for a 2nd ed. of Orality & Literacy which Ong had supposedly be working on or at least thinking about a few years ago. I went digging in the boxes of papers which had been on Ong's desk and found a three page, single-spaced typescript and a series of letters to and from Routledge, all dating from July 2001 - Jan 2002. Routledge wanted to include Orality & Literacy in a reissue of the top ten bestsellers of the New Accents series to celebrate the series' 25 anniversary. The plan was to redesign the covers, provide a new General Editor's Preface, redo a new layout and design, and, if the individual authors wished, an updated bibliography and/or a new concluding chapter of no more than 5,000 words.

The typescript itself, which is dated 28 August 2001, is titled "Memos for 2nd edition of Orality and Literacy, and has two sections (page 3 ends with "III" indicating at least a 3rd section was intended). Section I begins with the comment that electronics has brought us into a new stage we might call "electronic verbalization" and makes the point that orality-literacy-electronic verbalization is not a linear progression from one stage to the next but instead, to use Bolter's term, each remediates the other (my use of Bolter here, Fr. Ong doesn't use remediate or refer to Bolter). The rest of this section, maybe 1 1/4 pages, discusses jazz and how the Polish Philological Institute in Lublin have been relating it to orality & literacy. Fr. Ong does make reference to the 1958 book Jam Session: An Anthology of Jazz, edited by Ralph J. Gleason. A contributor to the collection had given a copy of it to Fr. Ong, I think in the 1960s, but I'd need to check. The second part of the typescript focuses on memory and how in an oral culture it is effectiveness, not verbatium recall, that is important.

It's possible that there's more written, but I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. The letters and the typescript are all paper clipped together. However, he did send the piece to Routledge as "some memos that I have made for my own thinking" and there is the indication of a third section (the "III" at the bottom of page 3). I'm not yet formally working with the loose papers yet, so we'll have to wait to see if I find anything else yet (I've checked the filing cabinets and there's nothing on the revision there). There's also a CD-ROM of the files Fr. Ong had on his computer, which I've glanced over but will check again.

What may also be of note are some files towards the monograph Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word and Digitization, which was also the title of a class Fr. Ong taught in the late 80s or early 90s (I've come across a few syllabi). There's a series of chapters, some quite short and some long, which match up to a projected outline. There's some letters indicating Fr. Ong had contacted Harvard UP in 1990 about the project, and they indicate he intended the work to be similiar in size and scope of Havelock's The Muse Learns to Write. There's a note that the project was abandoned in 1994 and there's some hand-written calculations indicating it was at 30,000 words and that Havelock's book was 40,000 words.

I need to reread it, but "Hermeneutic Forever: Voice, Text, Digitization, and the 'I'" seems to be a condensed version of some of the ideas rather than a chapter lifted from the larger project. "Digitization, Ancient and Modern" also seems to be related as does "Information and/or Communication." There's also a folder with what appear to be various drafts or attempts at these three pieces as well as some other things. One
that caught my eye immediately was a response, or maybe a better term is riff, on Marry Carruthers' "Inventional Mnemonics and the Ornaments of Style: The Case of Etymology" which was published in Connotations: A Journal for Critical Debate 2.2 (1992): 103-114 (this article had been in among Fr. Ong's books). While I haven't read Fr. Ong's response yet, Carruthers does use the phrase "elaborately punning riffs of memory" in her article and Fr. Ong uses it as a opportunity to discuss improvisation and orality.


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