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Sci Tech    H4'ed 3/14/10

Who Was Walter Ong, and Why Is His Thought Important Today?

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But those two big volumes about Ramus and Ramism put Ong on the intellectual map as a big-league thinker, because most Harvard professors had to acknowledge that they had not undertaken such a massively researched and intellectually ambitious study. In 1963, the French government dubbed Ong a knight, an honor rarely bestowed on someone who is not a French citizen.

I would characterize the next events in Ong's life as one blessing after another after another after another after another . . . . You get the idea.

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As we now proceed to review significant events in Ong's lifetime, please remember that in the years of Ong's lifetime the United States was engaged in the Cold War, and Americans lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the black civil rights movement, the American imperialistic war in Vietnam, the women's movement, the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion, the fall of the Berlin wall, the break up of the old Soviet Union, the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the American imperialistic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are still ongoing.

During the 1960s and the 1970s and into the 1980s, Ong was very active on the academic lecture circuit both in the United States and abroad. Moreover, during the late 1960s and the 1970s, McLuhan was arguably the most publicized English teacher in the English-speaking world. (He died in 1980.)

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In 1960, Harvard University Press published Albert B. Lord's book about oral tradition involving non-literate performers, The Singer of Tales.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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