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Life Arts

The 100th Anniversary of Walter J. Ong's Birth

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In 1978, Ong served as the elected president of the Modern Language Association of America. To this day, he is the only Catholic priest to have been elected president of MLA.


In 1979, Ong delivered the Messenger Lectures at Cornell University, published as FIGHTING FOR LIFE: CONTEST, SEXUALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS (1981).


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In 1981, Ong delivered the Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto, published as HOPKINS, THE SELF, AND GOD (1986).


In 1982, Methuen published ORALITY AND LITERACY: THE TECHNOLOGIZING OF THE WORD, which has become Ong's most widely known book.

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In the 1990s, as the result of Jacob Neusner's initiative, four volumes of Ong's essays were published under the general title of FAITH AND CONTEXTS, edited by me and Paul A. Soukup (Scholars Press, 1992a, 1992b, 1995, 1999).


In 2002, Hampton Press published AN ONG READER: CHALLENGES FOR FURTHER INQUIRY, edited by me and Paul A. Soukup.


In August 2003, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease, Fr. Ong died of pneumonia in a hospital in suburban St. Louis.

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In his bibliography of publications by Ong, the late Thomas M. Walsh (1943-2009) in English at Saint Louis University lists more than 400 publications, not counting reprintings. By my count, Ong published 109 book reviews and review essays. Between 1939 and 1996, he published 23 items over 25 issues (with two two-part essays) in the Jesuit-sponsored magazine AMERICA, including 12 essays, nine book reviews, one poem, and one letter. So far as I know, nobody has tried to compile a list of public lectures that Ong gave over his lifetime. But he was active on the lecture circuit.


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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; Ph.D.in 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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