- Walter J. Ong S.J. Biography and Remembrances
Summary of Scholarship
Fr. Ong was prolific as a writer, lecturer, and member of the academic community. For a complete bibliography of his work, see Dr. Thomas Walsh's Digital Bibliography. Dr. Walsh's 2006 Bibliography of Walter J. Ong, S.J. consists of 457 original publications of books, book chapters, articles, reviews, translations by Ong, poems, and limited-distribution items. With the additions of reprints, revisions, translations of Ong's works by others, and other items, the bibliography contains 909 entries. Prepared for the Walter J. Ong, S.J., Center for Language, Media, and Culture, the biography is the most complete and accurate register of Fr. Ong's published works through 2006.
The Walter J. Ong, S.J., Bibliography 1929-2006 is formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style, Fourteenth Edition, with incidental adaptations. It is available in Language, Culture, and Identity: The Legacy of Walter J. Ong, S.J., edited by Sara van den Berg and Thomas M. Walsh (Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press), 2011.
Beginning with his earliest books on the impact of Petrus Ramus, Fr. Ong published throughout his life. Many of his works treat the evolution of conscious as connected with the technological transformations of the word by the mediums writing, print, and electronics, while others of his books center on religion, literature, and culture.
Fr. Ong's earliest books on Renaissance intellectual history, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (1958) and Ramus and Talon Inventory (1958), were the result of four years' research work in European universities and libraries, two of these years on a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation of New York. These books served as Fr. Ong's Ph. D. thesis for Harvard, and launched his career in academia.
A trilogy of books, The Presence of the Word (1967), Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology (1971) and Interfaces of the Word (1977), trace the alienation and reintegration of consciousness brought about through technological transformations of the word by writing, print, and electronics, and the effects of the transformations on oral tradition and literary forms, on thought processes, and on social structures and behavior. These books form the foundation for most contemporary Ong scholarship, along with the compact Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982). Fr. Ong's Orality and Literacy has been translated into twelve European and Asian languages. The book reviews revolutionary new work on orality-literacy contrasts from ancient through present cultures, with attention to implications for structuralism, deconstruction, speech-act and reader-response theory, the teaching of reading and writing skills to males and to women, social studies, biblical studies, philosophy, and cultural history generally.
Two books by Professor Ong, In the Human Grain (1967) and The Barbarian Within (1962), are critical explorations of literature, contemporary culture, and religion. A briefer book, Why Talk (1973), presents a nontechnical discussion of the nature and history of language.
Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (1981), treats the functions of contest in human life, from sports through classroom teaching and political rhetoric, with reference to contest in infra-human animal existence, providing new insights into the complex biological settings of human intellectual and cultural activity, into sexual differences, and into the human quest for freedom.
Hopkins, the Self, and God, Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto (1986), is a historical study of the nineteenth-century English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose intense preoccupation with "inscape," the particular individuality of each individual existent, and especially with the most particular of particulars, the human self, was powered by both Victorian and recent Catholic concerns that aligned Hopkins with modem and postmodern poetry even before these movements got well under way. This book concerning Hopkins' profound thinking about the self is relevant to today's widespread studies on the origins and operation of human consciousness.
Two other of his books treat the problems of contemporary human beings and society in relation to the American Catholic tradition: Frontiers in American Catholicism (1957) and American Catholic Crossroads (1959), a Catholic Book Club selection. He has contributed to and edited the volume Darwin's Vision and Christian Perspectives (1960) as well as Knowledge and the Future of Man (1968).
The recent four-volume Faith and Contexts (1992-1995, 1999) and The Ong Reader (2002) consist of selections of Ong's essays and studies. Both are edited by Thomas J. Farrell and Paul A. Soukup.
In addition to his published books, Fr. Ong edited other works and was the author of numerous articles in literary and scholarly periodicals and popular magazines, in the United States, Canada, and England as well as in France, Germany, Italy, Latin America, and Japan, and of studies in the books Immortal Diamond, English Institute Essays, Problems of Communication in a Pluralistic Society, Literature and Belief, Religion in America, Education and Culture (Anthropological Approaches), Minority Language and Literature, etc. He is also the author of prefaces to books by others, numerous encyclopedia articles, etc. Essays and studies of his have been reprinted in many anthologies, and books of his have been translated into many languages of Europe, the Near East, and East Asia.
Father Ong was a member of the National Council on the Humanities from 1968 through 1974 (Vice Chairman 1971-74) and served on the fourteen-person White House Task Force on Education which reported to President Johnson in 1967. He served on the Advisory Board of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, was Co-Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities' Committee on Science, Technology, and Human Values, and was Chairman of the Board and President of the National Humanities Faculty. He served on the National Commission on the Humanities (1978-80) sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation.
He was a member of the Renaissance Society of America, the Modern Language Association of America (President, 1978), the Modern Humanities Research Association, the American Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, the Cambridge (England) Bibliographical Society, etc. The French Government named him Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques. He also served as a member of the editorial boards of various learned periodicals, as regional associate for the American Council of Learned Societies, President of the Central Renaissance Conference and of the Milton Society of America, member of various national committees of the Modem Language Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council on Education, etc.
He presented papers or served as resource person or seminar leader at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (Santa Barbara, California), the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, the Wenner-Gren Conference Center for Anthropological Research at Burg Wartenstein, Austria, the 1968 World Student Christian Federation Conference in Turku (Finland), the Star Seminar of the Graphic Institute in Stockholm (Sweden), and other conferences. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Well known as a speaker across the United States and Canada and on national radio and television networks in the United States and abroad, Father Ong lectured widely in Europe, particularly (in French) to university and other groups in Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and at the Centre d'Etudes Superieures de la Renaissance at Tours (University of Poitiers), as well as in the Middle East, Central and West Africa, North Africa, East Asia, and Latin America.
He lectured at the Georgetown Conference on the New Criticism and the Michigan State University Conference in Modern Literature, and served as McDonald Lecturer at McGill University, Terry Lecturer at Yale University, Messenger Lecturer at Cornell University, Alexander Lecturer at the University of Toronto, Wolfson College Lecturer at Oxford University, Visiting Professor of English at the University of California, Fellow of the School of Letters at Indiana University, Berg Professor of English at New York University, Visiting Willett Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, National Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for 1969-70, and Lincoln Lecturer abroad for the Board of Foreign Scholarships 1974.