Wrapping up my day, I handled some administrative things. First, I’m on the CCCC Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication. We had our annual meeting last week, and as part of my follow-up, I’ve drafted the emails I need to send out to past winners of the Technology Innovator Award to ask them to serve on the selection committee for this year’s award.
I’m also working with the archivists at Saint Louis University to discuss additional items for digitization from the Walter J. Ong Manuscript Collection as they and the Walter J. Ong Center for Language, Media, and Culture ramp up for the Ong Centenary celebrations. I spent three years as the preliminary processing archivist of the Ong Collection and am currently a fellow of the Ong Center. In addition to advising the archivists on items for digitization, I’m interested in creating a digitial project based upon Ong’s Route Book he kept while doing dissertation research in Europe from 1950-53. Initially, I want to created an edited edition of the route book along with the pictures he took. I see this, however, as serving as the backbone for a much larger project that brings in correspondence, lecture typescripts, dissertation research, etc. to give a fuller picture of those three years in Europe. It was while conducting his dissertation research that Ong stumbled upon his breaktrhough moment, not just for the dissertation but for his later forays into orality-literacy studies. As he explains:
It happened while I was doing my dissertation research in France […]. I was reading Rudoph Bultmann, the Protestant theologian, who made reference to the idea that knowing, for the Hebrews, had to do with hearing and sound, while the Greeks thought of knowing as related to seeing. I guess it took me about a day, but suddenly I could see how the whole thing fit together. (qtd. in Nielson, Mark. “A Bridge Builder: Walter J. Ong at 80.” America 167.16 (Nov. 21, 1992): 404-406, 404.)
Having worked through the entire Ong Collection, which contains more than 41,000 items and takes up more than 90 linear feet, I’ve come to realize how central these three years were to Fr. Ong’s future scholarship, and my hope is that by presenting the context of those years, using his travel journal as an organizational framework, will help others come to better understand Walter Ong and his scholarship.
Tonight’s work has consisted of looking through notes and drafting emails I’ll send out tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to look them over one more time.