Monday, March 28, 2005

Still working on the exhibit. Two cases are done. One has pictures of Ong, Ong's family, and Ong with some Jesuits, Ong's books on wildlife, keeping fish, and tending house plants, a cartoon of Ong in the library dressed as a farmer (he cared for all the plants), and some sketches and photos of wildlife. In one picture he's got a screech owl perched on his hand. I'm going to go back to the archives and get the typewriter for this case. In the other case I have a number of times from Ong's 1929 and 1950-53 trips to Europe (Boy Scout Jamboree and dissertation research).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

What do Mother Teresa, Marshall McLuhan, J.R.R. Tolkien, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Jung, Steven Hawking, and Mr. Magoo all have in common? They may all be in the Walter J. Ong Archives exhibit. Earlier today I came across a short note from Tolkien to Ong (I've earlier mentioned letters between Ong and Francis P. Magoun in which Tolkien is discussed). It turns out Fr. Ong tried to set up a meeting with Tolkien while visiting Oxford, but Tolkien had to leave for a conference in Belgium right after Ong arrived and would be gone for 10 days. I checked Ong's travel book and this was right before Ong finished his research in England. In fact, Tolkien and Ong either crossed the Channel on the same day or Tolkien returned to England the day after Ong left for France.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I went through a number of letters today. I should be done with them soon. I'm also beginning to really put the exhibit together and have started browsing through files I haven't yet gotten to. In the folders for the 1929 World Jamboree held in England (Ong attended as 16-year old Eagle Scout), I came across a travel journal like the one he kept when he went to Europe for his dissertation work.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A few days ago (March 16), I participated in the 2005 Research Network Forum at CCCC. My work-in-progress presentation was titled "Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives." Here's the text from my handout:

"In July 2004, I began a two-year project assisting the Saint Louis University archivists in processing the newly acquired Walter J. Ong collection. The collection contains hundreds of books, both books he authored, edited, and to which he contributed (both archival copies and copies annotated for revision and lecture) and books by others (many with annotations and/or gift inscriptions; files on all his publications (including off-prints, typescripts, notes, correspondence, reviews, and news clippings); unpublished works; correspondence to and from family, friends, and colleagues; off-prints given to him; class lecture notes; hundreds of pictures; library cards from libraries where he did research; homilies; audio and video recordings of lectures; awards; drawings and sketches; personal files (including a route book/diary of his dissertation research in Europe); and professional files (readers' reports, commissions and committee work, etc.). As Fr. Ong intended to give everything to the archives, it is all well organized. Mainly, my job consists of processing the collection and writing a finding guide. Both the University archivist and I want to get some of material digitized and on the Web before my two years are up so there is a precedent of doing so. We'd also like to publish some of the material in the collection, and I have been encouraged to use material in my own research.

"Today, what I'm particularly interested in are comments on the feasibility of and/or suggestions for publishing the following:

"1) There are a number of unpublished materials from the 1990s which include items such as the polished article "Time, Digitization, and Dali's Memory" (at a journal's suggestion, Ong wrote this in response to an article on "inventional mnemonics" by Mary Carruthers. While thoroughly Ongian, the result was something the editors believed too far outside the scope of the journal to publish. Among other things, Ong regards Dali's painting as a symptom or sign of digitization in the same way he regarded Ramus' charts as a symptom/sign of print), and the unpublished lectures "Secondary Orality and Secondary Visualism" and "Orality, Textuality, and Electronics Unlimited," all of which are from or are related to Ong's unfinished book Language as Hermeneutic: A Primer on the Word and Digitization.

"Should I try to publish some of the polished material as is (as Ong's work, of course)? Try to publish it as unfinished/unpublished archival material with introductions and notes to contextualize? (I know PMLA accepts archival material. Anyone else?) Try to publish these and a number of other items as a collection of Ong's unpublished works?

"2) Working through a number of articles from the 1950s and 1960s, I've come to understand the role both "knowledge in time" and "revealed religion" play in Ong's thought. In short, Ong believed that knowledge is revealed in time (for instance, that we need to understand Newtonian physics before we can understand special relativity) and that knowledge reveals to us God's creation. An important implication of this which a number of Ong's critics don't realize is that he never saw himself developing theories. Instead, Ong believed he was describing, to the best of his (our) ability, God's creation as we currently understood it. For him, new knowledge didn't pose a threat to old ideas, but instead provided a better understanding of creation with which old knowledge needed to conform.

"I've thought about writing an article explaining these ideas and their implications for understanding Ong's work.

"3) In addition to the work in the Ramus book, I found additional lecture notes and unpublished material indicating Ong had been thinking about rhetorical memory well before Yates published The Art of Memory, which is not surprising considering the review essay he was able to write in response to Yates' book. While usually not explicitly stated as such, memory played a central role in Ong's thought, and I've thought about writing an article that explores his treatment of memory. (I've been working with memory for a number of years now, both in my dissertation which looks at memory in Old English literature from linguistic, rhetorical, and social perspectives, and in terms of contemporary rhetorical practice and pedagogy.)

"Is there a place for a survey of memory in Ong's work, from his early lecture notes and the chapter "Hollows of the Mind" which was cut from his dissertation to the treatment of memory in published works such as The Presence of the Word, Orality and Literacy and the review essays of Yates' The Art of Memory and Carruthers' The Book of Memory? Would you recommend writing such an article more as a survey of Ong's own work, or should contextualized within the larger discussions of memory over that has taken place over the years?"

Peter Elbow was in one of my small groups and he's working on a cool project, on writing that "feels right in the mouth and sounds right in the ear."

Monday, March 14, 2005

In a letter to Mr. John Richardson, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, dated Jan. 11, 1975, Ong writes "The danger from machines is not that machines will 'take over,' but that we will regard ourselves as machines. The danger is interior more than exterior."

Friday, March 11, 2005

I've returned to the Midwest Jesuit Archives to borrow a number of items. I took:

-a framed picture of both Ong's mother and father, both taken about the time of their marriage
-two portraits of Fr. Ong
-picture taken of Ong during the "Freedom and the American Catholic" broadcast
-picture of honorary doctorates at Notre Dame, 1982. Includes Fr. Ong and physicist Stephen Hawking.
-picture of honorary degrees recipients at Holy Cross, 1976. Includes Fr. Ong and Mother Teresa
-picture of Fr. Ong returning from fishing, 1974
-NYT obit and 3 memorial mass programs
-portrait of Ong family (father, mother, Ong, and brother)
-large envelope of misc. pictures
-Marionist Award
-scouting photos
-Jamboree photos
-natural history photos
-scrapbook made by Ong's aunt Ida Mense
-MLA Award for "A Writer's Audience is Always a Fiction"
-Rockhurst graduating class photo
-envelopes of Renaissance bookplates

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Another letter to his parents. This one dated 14 Janvier 1952:

"What do you think of this as a title, possibly: The Clunch Fist of Method: Ramus and the Modern Mind? (Clunch means clenched -- old form, from a quotation. I'll have to explain the title, but that's what a book is for, to explain." [An early typescript draft of Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue uses a similar title.]

In a letter dated Sept. 18, 1953, Ong mentions that he's been buying hundreds of books for SLU [this is also mentioned in earlier letters, and Ong did indeed purchase hundreds of early (pre-1800) printed books for the Saint Louis University Libraries, some of the 7,000 pre-1800 printed books I walk past to get to my desk]. He notes that prices have jumped, which makes it harder for him to buy good books when he finds them as he has limited funds (being a Jesuit), and suggests that if his parents were to send some money, he could buy some books on their behalf and gift plates could be placed in them. In a letter dated Oct. 12, 1953, Ong thanks his parents for the $100 to buy books with.(Before the jump in price, Ong had been buying books for anything from $.25 - $2.00.) There are a number of rare books in the St. Louis Room's pre-1800 printed book collection with gift plates indicated them as gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Ong, Sr.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Today I came across a large number of letters from Ong to his parents, written between the years 1947 and 1956, essentially the time from when he went East to Harvard until his mother died (his father died in 1954). This includes the entire time he was in Europe doing his dissertation research. There's also much smaller files for both of his parents. The file for his mother includes her Rosary. That is most definitely going on display in the exhibit.

In a letter to his parents, dated Oct. 29, 1954, written from Etudes -- the Jesuit residence in Paris which Ong used as a home base for much of his time while doing dissertation research in Europe, he writes:

"It wasn't De Mille's Queen of Queens, which I guess will be pretty horrible, but Samson and Delilah that I had to do with. You should see the film if you get a chance, S&D I mean, not that it's much worth while...but because I had something to do with it -- not so much with the lines that are in it as those that aren't.... The S&D scripts was sent to me all through its development, in its various stages of evolution, which might be described as from worse to bad. Them's Phil's sentiments, too."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I went to the Midwest Jesuit Archives today to see exactly what they have. While Fr. Ong's academic papers came to us, his personal items went to them. There are lots and lots of pictures of family, friends, and Ong himself. Some correspondence. A scrapbook but together by Ong's aunt. A number of awards and honorary degrees. Photos from the 1929 Boy Scout World Jamboree in England, which Ong attended at as a 16-year old Eagle Scout just graduated from high school. Ong's old Smith-Corona Classic 12 typewriter. Academic and clerical robes. I'll be returning to borrow some of the material for the exhibit.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

John Waide and I went to the Instructional Media Center yesterday to talk with them about transferring our audio-visual material to digital formats (we've got some old reel-to-reel tapes and betamax tapes for which questions of access is becoming increasingly pressing). Reel-to-reel can still be done onsite, but we'll have to find someplace off campus to convert the betamax.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I read Ong's unpublished essay "Time, Digitization, and Dali's Memory" today. I'd read through the related correspondence earlier to figure out what the essay was. A journal had asked Ong if he'd like to respond to an essay and he'd said maybe. A year later, he sent this essay, which loosely centers around Dali's painting Persistance of Memory with a note that the article may not be what they were looking for. It wasn't, but they said they thought the article was brilliant and suggested Ong seek publication elsewhere. They, however, thought it was an essay on human time, which makes me think they didn't fully understand it. In the article, Ong suggests that Dali's painting is a symptom, a sign, of the socio-cultural matrix that will become digital culture much like Ramus's diagrams were symptoms and signs of print culture [my summary, not Ong's words. Nor does Ong refer specifically to Ramus, though they may have gotten it if he did]. The essay actually hits upon many of Ong's themes including the I-Though, sound (the alphabet is the digitization of sound, which is the point Ong makes in the essay "Hermeneutics Forever," memory as creative invention, etc.