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Life Arts    H3'ed 4/25/17

Will the "Political Correctness" Crowd Ever Change Their Tune? (BIBLIOGRAPHIC ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 25, 2017: Over the last half century or so, the "political correctness" crowd has provided a target for conservatives to attack. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party's candidate, effectively campaigned against "political correctness." White Christian voters gave him his decisive electoral victory. His decisive electoral victory should be a wake-up call for the "political correctness" crowd -- the time has come for them to revisit their glib critiques of Western cultural history. One way they could revisit their critiques of Western cultural history is by studying the American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955) of Saint Louis University, the Jesuit university in St. Louis, Missouri.

To this day, Fr. Ong is the only Roman Catholic priest ever elected to serve as president of the Modern Language Association of America (in 1978). As far as I know, he was never silenced or censured by the Vatican. Nevertheless, his thought has not been lionized either by his fellow Catholics -- or by non-Catholics. But why not? When will Ong's time in the sun come? His thought about the infrastructures of our Western cultural history deserves to be lionized not only by Catholics but also by non-Catholics who want to get their bearings about our Western cultural history.

Thomas M. Walsh has compiled a complete bibliography of Ong's 400 or so publications, including information about reprinted and translated items: "Walter J. Ong, S.J.: A Bibliography 1929-2006" in Language, Culture, and Identity: The Legacy of Walter J. Ong, S.J., edited by Sara van den Berg and Walsh (New York: Hampton P, 2011, pp. 185-245).

I have surveyed eleven of Ong's books in detail and selected articles in my accessible book Walter Ong's Contributions to Cultural Studies: The Phenomenology of the Word and I-Thou Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Hampton P, 2015). The eleven Ong books that I discuss in detail are the following:

(1) Frontiers in American Catholicism: Essays on Ideology and Culture (New York: Macmillan, 1957);

(2) Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1958), Ong's slightly revised Harvard doctoral dissertation;

(3) American Catholic Crossroads: Religious-Secular Encounters in the Modern World (New York: Macmillan, 1959);

(4) The Barbarian Within: And Other Fugitive Essays and Studies (New York: Macmillan, 1962);

(5) In the Human Grain: Further Explorations of Contemporary Culture (New York: Macmillan, 1967);

(6) The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1967), the expanded version of Ong's 1964 Terry Lectures at Yale University;

(7) Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1971);

(8) Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1977);

(9) Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1981), Ong's 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University;

(10) Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London and New York: Methuen, 1982), Ong's most widely known book;

(11) Hopkins, the Self, and God (Toronto, Buffalo, and London: U of Toronto P, 1986), Ong's 1981 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto.

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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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