Walter Ong

An American Jesuit priest, professor of English literature, cultural and religious historian and philosopher. His major interest was in exploring how the transition from orality to literacy influenced culture and changed human consciousness. In 1978 Ong served as elected president of the Modern Language Association of America.

Some of Ong's interests:

  • the historical development of visualist tendencies in Western philosophic thought
  • the mathematical transformation of thought in medieval and early modern logic and beyond
  • oral cyclic thought, which is characteristic of primary oral cultures, versus linear or historical or evolutionary thought, which depends on writing
  • the movement from oral heroic poetry to mock-heroic poetry in print culture to the realist tradition in literature to the modern antihero
  • the historical development in manuscript culture and print culture of the inward turn of personalized ego-consciousness, or individuality
  • the new dimensions of orality fostered by modern communication media that accentuate sound, which Ong calls secondary orality as it succeeds from, relies on, and coexists with writing
  • the origins and development of the Western educational system
  • the role and effects of Learned Latin in Western culture

Contact information

  • Walter Jackson Ong