Wednesday, August 24, 2005

We've finally got most of the collection moved into my office, so I have easy access to Fr. Ong's papers again. We put up a couple of ranges of shelves to hold the boxes. There's still some room, but I know it's not going to last long. As I start going through these boxes a second time, I'm going to be adding a lot of folders as we want to have 20-25 items, which means at least half the current folders will need to be divided up. Many, many folders are thicker than a ream of paper (some are two or three reams in width), so that's going to be a lot of extra folders, which means the length of the collection is going to grow (one way to measure a collection is by shelf length -- the amount of shelf space it takes up). The books, however, have been moved to a vault in the library, which is a pain, but I will be able to have access to them.

In the index card and ephemeria file are all of Fr. Ong's homily and sermon cards. From earlier quick glances, I thought that's what they were, but I can say so for sure now. A number of people have asked if we had any of his homilies, and I can now answer yes.

I also came across his ordination and First Solemn Mass cards.

Archives | Walter Ong | Walter J Ong | Walter J Ong Archives

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ong seems to have kept his syllabi and course notes on index cards. As I've mentioned before, he could print extremely small, and thereby pack an index card full of information. The courses I've found:

-Orality and Literate Cultures
-The Origins and the Study of Literature
-Polemic in Literary and Academic Tradition: An Historical Survey
-The Practice of Interpretation of Prose/Practical Criticism: Prose
-The Practice of Interpretation of Poetry/Practical Criticism: Poetry
-Literature and the Nature of the Word
-Interdisciplinary Studies: Media and the Developments of Character, Plot, and Genre
-Modern Critical Theories
-The Study of Language: History of the English Language
-Technology and the Creation of Literature
-The Renaissance in England
-Renaissance Poetry and Prose
-Renaissance Literature: Prose
-Formation of the Renaissance Mind
-From Dialogue to Enlightenment
-Studies in Renaissance Literature: Poetry Exclusive of Drama and Epic
-Seminar in Renaissance Literature: Prose Writers and Techniques
-Studies in English Prose Developments: Renaissance Prose and the Educational Tradition
-Renaissance Literature: Genre and Society
-Seminar in Renaissance Literature: Literature and Rhetoric
-Renaissance Literature: Genre and Society
-Seminar in Renaissance Literature: [The Reader and] Sixteenth Century Literature
-Seminar in Renaissance Literature: The Age of Milton
-Seminar in the Nineteenth Century: Hopkins' Poetry and Theology
-Themes in Literature: Existentialism
-Language as Hermeneutic
-Modern Literature: British and American Poetry in Transition
-Seminar in Modern Literature: British and American Poetry
-Modern Literature: Poetry
-Seminar in Modern Literature: Poetry and Evolutionism
-Seminar in Modern Literature: Existentialist Themes
-Seminar in Modern Literature: T.S. Eliot's World and Works

Archives | Walter Ong | Walter J Ong | Walter J Ong Archives

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Found on an index card labeled "Ong's Laws":
The longer you wait to throw something away, the sooner you will have immediate and urgent need for it.

Everything used to be something else. (E.g., a bone in the inner ear having to do with hearing in human beings evolved from a bone serving originally as a support for the gill slits of a fish; horses' hooves evolved from claws; etc.).

Total verbal explicitness is impossible. (This statement is also self-referential.)

and from cards labeled "aphorisms, etc.":
When you add to what you know, does this mean that what you don't know has diminished?
Of course not. Now what you don't know includes how your new knowledge relates to other knowledge of yours as well as to what you still don't know.
What you don't know is bottomless and is getting deeper.

Diminishment of our powers by illness, old age, etc., should be accepted wholeheartedly as coming from a loving God. But to accept such diminishment, we must struggle against it as best we can. Jesus did not volunteer for crucifixion, although he accepted it out of love of his Father and of humankind. If we do not struggle against the diminishment, we are not truly accepting it. [dated 3-8-91]

"Back to your roots"? Roots grow out of the visible tree as much as the visible tree grows out of its roots.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

I've been working through and writing up preliminary descriptions of Fr. Ong's research, address, teaching, and bibliography cards. Off hand, as I haven't kept a running total, I wouldn't be surprised if there are over 20,000 of them, and I'm certain that there are over 15,000. I haven't been counting individual cards but "items" which may be an individual card or a bundle of cards. Judging by thickness, I'm sure a few bundles number more than 50 cards; however most bundles are just two or three cards stapled together. In with the cards are small printed materials, a few notes/letters, cartoons, and the like. There are also a number of cross-reference cards. It's a true index card database. Many of the research cards have dates, ranging from the early 1940s to the mid-80s, though most of the cards date from the 1950s and 1960s.

It'd be wonderful to digitize all these cards, but I doubt that will happen, at least not any time soon. To be fair, there's just a lot to do to get the collection ready for use. But I think people will find it interesting to find "commerce" research cards dating to the early 1960s (or not, if you're familiar with Ong's work from the period), "computer language" cards dating from 1965.

Archives | Walter Ong | Walter J Ong | Walter J Ong Archives

Friday, August 05, 2005

At Ghost in the Wire, Kenneth Rufo has a interesting analysis on the trope of media technology displacement and obsolescence. In part, he writes:
The other examples don't even come this close. With the Half-Blood Prince still flying off shelves, it's hard to say that either hypertext or video games have ended the culture of book reading. Newspapers are everywhere, with blogs largely parasitic off of their reporting efforts. And fear not, podcasts will not replace radio broadcasts any time soon.

So why is this claim so often incorrect? Well, a couple of reasons.

1. The displacement narrative confuses the current function of a medium with the medium itself. In effect, it reduces the potential of a medium to its operational economy. Typing puts word to paper more efficiently than does handwriting, and so handwriting will soon be pictured next to the dodo in the annals of history, or so the theory goes.
2. It ignores the importance of temporality in assessing mediation. Radio has the advantage of "live" broadcasts - commonly referred to now as "real time" - while podcasts do not. Podcasts can fulfill some of the functions of radio, to be sure, but they cannot catpure its rhythms. Those rhythms matter, as they determine the potential and the reception of particular media.

Read the whole post at

Cross-posted to Machina Memorialis.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

The 2005 Saint Louis University conference "Language, Culture, and Identity; The Legacy of Walter J. Ong, S.J." is now available on DVD:

Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2005 08:59:30 -0500
From: Sara van den Berg
Reply-To:, Sara van den Berg
Subject: [MEA] Ong Conference DVDs now available

A six-DVD set of the Walter Ong Conference held last April at Saint Louis University is now available. The DVDs includes presentations and discussions. Speakers include Catherine Snow (Harvard), John Miles Foley (Missosuri), Walter Jost (Virginia), C. Jan Swearingen (Texas A&M), Kathleen Welch (Oklahoma), Werner Kelber (Rice), John Pauly (SLU), Paul Soukup (Santa Clara), Charles Taylor (Northwestern), Stephen Casmier (SLU), Roy Schafer(Columbia Psychoanalytic Institute), and Lance Strate (Fordham). There is also a special panel of personal remembrances, featuring Fr. Ong's colleagues in St. Louis (Thomas Zlatic, Thomas Walsh, Vincent Casaregola, and John Padberg, S.J.).

Orders can be sent to: Sara van den Berg, Dept. of English, Saint Louis University, 3800 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis MO 63108-3414. The cost is $100 (including shipping). Checks should be payable to "Saint Louis University" with "Walter Ong Memorial Fund" on the memo line. Proceeds from this sale will be used for the Walter Ong Center at Saint Louis University.

We appreciate the interest people have showon in this project.

Sara van den Berg