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Walter Ong: Writing Restructures Consciousness
Transcript of Walter Ong: Writing Restructures Consciousness
Writing Restructures Consciousness Ong's central argument in this excerpt
from his book Orality and Literacy
is that human beings' thought processes
"do not grow out of simply natural
powers but out of these powers as
structured, directly or indirectly, by
the technology of writing" (77).
Father Walter Jackson Ong, (1912-2003) spent a career of over thirty-five years
of teaching and research at Saint Louis University, holding positions as professor
of English, professor of Humanities in Psychiatry, and University Professor. Over
the course of his career, he contributed a number of groundbreaking studies in
the fields of orality and literacy studies. Ong is also known for his work in
Renaissance literary and intellectual history and in contemporary culture, as well
as for his more wide-ranging studies on the evolution of consciousness. His
scholarly output includes over 450 publications. Writing, a process, for Ong,
of "putting spoken language
into writing" is ruled by
"contrived, articulatable rules"
(81) But, for Ong, this isn't a problem.
As he says, to call writing artificial
is "not to condemn it, but to praise
"Technology," he says, "properly
interiorized, does not degrade
human life but on the contrary
enhances it" (82). But what does he mean by
"properly interiorized"? Ong refers to a violinist
or an organist interiorizing
an instrument through years
of practice, resulting in the
"shaping of a tool to oneself."
This, he says, "is hardly
(One of Ong's most
famous disciples, Marshall
McLuhan, once wrote that
"Nobody ever made a
grammatical error in a non-
literate society.") Plato's Complaints:
Ong cites four--
what were they? But many have argued
against new technologies... Writing Old
School Lab For today's lab, we're
going to return to rhetoric
to look at the connections
between those ideas and the
ideas of our more recent readings. I will put you into groups of 3.
Each group will receive a reading.
As a group, review that reading together--
you will become the "local experts" on that text. There will be a rhetorical key term at different
stations throughout the room. Your group will
visit each one, aiming to create a visual representation
of how the term links with your specific reading.
You will also need to build off the visual links made
by previous visitors, so this task will become increasingly
complex. This might involve erasing (remember your pencils!) and revising the previous groups' work, building more persuasive visuals or developing a new visual metaphor that more accurately portrays the relationships between rhetorical terms and texts. By the end of this exercise, we will have 5
different representations showing us how
you all visualize the connections between our
readings and our rhetorical terms.