Wednesday, December 08, 2004

From McDonough, Peter. Men Astutely Trained: A History of the Jesuits in the American Century. New York: The Free Press, 1992.

"Even before the publication of his research on Ramism in the late fifties, Ong had begun to establish himself as a cultural critic of broad scope. He concentrated on the transition then stirring in American Catholicism from a subculture in which intellectual endeavor was still largely confined to the question-and-answer format of theological manuals toward a rapprochement with the fluid society of the years following the war, and he was instrumental in loosening the hold that the fanciful medievalism beloved by [Joseph] Husslein had on the Catholic mind. He has continued to work the margins between the disciplinary demarcations of academia and the 'deep reorganization of consciousness' implicit in the convergence of the Second Vatican Council, the transformation of the Jesuits, and the emergence of media technologies in advanced industrial society. Ong is the most recent in a line of Jesuit polymaths who, like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, have attempted to reconcile the crosscurrents of tradition and modernity" (444)

"While Ong's professional reputation was founded on a study of the work of a Renaissance scholar-teacher, his intellectual agenda has been shaped around a dialogue with modernity as culture and as the material equipment of culture. He has used the traditional Jesuit interest in the devices of instruction and communication, in 'rhetorics,' as an entree into an analysis of the technology of learning and the management of discourse in the [page break] interest of social hierarchies. His work concerns the links between pedagogy and power, and he tried to expose the subterranean politics of the humanist tradition.

"Ong does not attend closely to the machinery of conventional politics, and his explicit references to questions of social justice are few; he has little to say about intermediate institutions. In this respect his method differs sharply from the positivism-cum-moralism of John Thomas. The literary, artistic, and historical evidence that Ong draws on is often used as material for the interpretation of archetypical patters in the collective representations of both high and low culture. Ong's interdisciplinary style has had as its substantive corollary an interest in the connections between apparently apolitical or merely interpersonal transactions, such as modes of teaching and learning, and their implications for the distribution of power at a societal level" (444-5).

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