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Celebrating Sage Walter J. Ong, S.J.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University will host an interdisciplinary conference Feb. 7-8 celebrating the work of Jesuit scholar and teacher Walter J. Ong, considered among the foremost theorists of rhetoric in the 20th century. The conference is titled, “Technology, Rhetoric, and Cultural Change:  Walter J. Ong, S. J. in the Age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.”

Walter J. Ong, S.J., (c. 1984). Image courtesy Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections. Richard Finke, photographer.

Conference Feb.7-8 Revisits Work of Jesuit Scholar

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University will host an interdisciplinary conference Feb. 7-8 celebrating the work of Jesuit scholar and teacher Walter J. Ong, considered among the foremost theorists of rhetoric in the 20th century. The conference is titled, “Technology, Rhetoric, and Cultural Change:  Walter J. Ong, S. J. in the Age of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.”

A student of Marshall McLuhan and Perry Miller, Father Ong’s dissertation on the importance of Peter Ramus, a 16th century logician who developed a deeply influential pedagogy, brought him an international audience. Over the course of his long career, Ong published several books and hundreds of essays, most arguing that the technology of human communication is reflected, however indirectly, in human consciousness.

This conference will celebrate Fr. Ong’s legacy and the tradition of Jesuit scholarship. As enthusiasts of new media daily claim its transformative status, the conference will explore – using the lens of Walter Ong’s scholarship – these powerful new communication tools and the emerging world they promise.  

Gonzaga Academic Vice President Patricia O’Connor Killen will offer a welcome at 5 p.m., Feb. 7, followed by a keynote lecture by English Professor Sara van den Berg, of St. Louis University, who will discuss “The State of Ong Scholarship.” Offering the concluding keynote lectures on Feb. 8 at 3:15 p.m. will be Regis University religious studies Professor Randolph Lumpp, who will discuss “Going Global with Walter Ong: The Society and the Site,” followed by a lecture from Gonzaga communication Professor John Caputo will discuss “Walter Ong: How The Seamless Web of Technology is Restructuring Consciousness.” The conference, to be held in the Jepson Center for the School of Business Administration (click for campus map), features scholars from throughout the world who will present lectures on the following themes: Ong and Writing/Literature; Orality; Language Studies; and Ong and Philosophy. Click the following link to view a list of conference participants. To register online for the conference, visit the following website.

Known for his work in Renaissance literature, intellectual history, and the evolution of consciousness, Fr. Ong authored more than 450 publications and the perennially popular “Orality and Literacy,” which was translated into a dozen languages, both European and Asian. A Saint Louis University Professor Emeritus, the William E. Haren Professor Emeritus of English, and Professor Emeritus of Humanities in Psychiatry, Fr. Ong’s scholarship has influenced numerous fields and countless scholars. He gave lecture tours in Western Africa, Japan, and across Europe.

Fr. Ong’s work was deeply interdisciplinary. His scholarship was difficult to classify by traditional disciplines. His students labeled his courses not English but “Ong-lish” for his vast treatment of topics in any class.  He was active until his death in 2003.

For more information, please visit the conference website or contact Megan Taylor via email or at (509) 313-3567.

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