Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology

Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture

Walter J. Ong
Copyright Date: 1971
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology
    Book Description:

    This is not a book on rhetoric in any narrow sense, but rather concerns its general ambiance and also some of its quite specific manifestations. The thirteen chapters that comprise the book move chronologically from the Renaissance up to the present time. Chapter 2 shows the continuity of verbal expression during the English Renaissance with earlier speech and thought patterns before the invention of writing. In the third chapter, a detailed report is given on the entire production of English-language books on rhetoric and poetic and literary criticism or theory during the Tudor age, from the late 15th through the beginning of the 17th century. The fourth chapter indicates the central significance of the art of memory.

    The chapters from 5 through 12 treat the interrelationships between social institutions and modes of thought and expression (Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite; Ramist Classroom Procedure and the Nature of Reality; Ramist Method and the Commercial Mind; Swift on the Mind: Satire in a Closed Field; Psyche and the Geometers; Associationist Critical Theory; J. S. Mill's Pariah Poet; Romantic Difference and the Poetics of Technology; and The Literate Orality of Popular Culture Today). The final chapter centers on the history of the humanities to show that they have not been the same in all ages, and that they are always in a state of crisis.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6633-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    W. J. O
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Rhetoric and the Origins of Consciousness
    (pp. 1-22)

    Until the modern technological age, which effectively began with the industrial revolution and romanticism, Western culture in its intellectual and academic manifestations can be meaningfully described as rhetorical culture. Any number of scholars have borne witness to the pervasiveness of rhetoric in the West, such as Ernst Robert Curtius, Leo Spitzer, Pedro Lain Entralgo, and the late C. S. Lewis. Near the beginning of his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama, Lewis states that “in rhetoric, more than in anything else, the continuity of the old European tradition was embodied,” adding that rhetoric was “older than the Church,...

  5. 2 Oral Residue in Tudor Prose Style
    (pp. 23-47)

    We have recently been growing more aware of the differences between oral cultures and literate cultures.¹ The effects on modes of thought inherent in the successive media of expression—oral speech, analphabetic writing, alphabetic writing, letterpress printing, the electronic media, wired and wireless—have been studied in some detail, and we know something of the effect of (alphabetic) writing on the ability to perform abstract analysis and to exercise individually. controlled thinking as against communally controlled thinking.² The full effects of our new sensitivity to the shift in media, however, have hardly begun to be felt in literary history and...

  6. 3 Tudor Writings on Rhetoric, Poetic, and Literary Theory
    (pp. 48-103)

    The literature of the Tudor age, like that of earlier and immediately subsequent ages, has some of its deepest roots in the rhetorical tradition. Though originally concerned with oratory, as has been seen, rhetoric was also intimately associated with what we today would call works of creative imagination, and never more effectively than through the sixteenth century. Its relationship to such works was sometimes straightforward, sometimes devious, but always pervasive. Writings about rhetoric itself flooding Tudor book stalls are often, it is true, too businesslike, too practical in tone, too free of the touch of play necessary for aesthetic performance...

  7. 4 Memory as Art
    (pp. 104-112)

    To the unlearned, a recent book by Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory,¹ would appear pedestrian enough in its aims and promise. It undertakes to trace schemes for implementing memory from the ancient Greeks through Cicero and Quintilian, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance into the Cartesian era. The book is in fact far from pedestrian. It is not only a model of erudition but also certainly a seminal book for vast areas of intellectual and cultural history. More particularly, it opens many new vistas within the rhetorical tradition as this is examined in the present volume, so that...

  8. 5 Latin Language Study as a Renaissance Puberty Rite
    (pp. 113-141)

    The reasons why any particular society follows the educational curriculum which it does follow are always exceedingly complex. Because, in being a preparation for the future, it is inevitably a communication of what is available from past experience, education is always primarily a traffic in this experience and only secondarily a matter of theory. The theories concerning the handling of this experience never quite compass the actuality and totality of the experience itself. They are generally rationalizations, afterthoughts, however valuable or venturesome they may be under certain of their aspects.

    This is true of education today, and it was true...

  9. 6 Ramist Classroom Procedure and the Nature of Reality
    (pp. 142-164)

    The Renaissance is an age particularly rich in educators and educational literature, but nowhere in it is there a figure more profoundly involved in educational theory and practice than Peter Ramus. Ramus’ involvement is virtually total. If we consider his life apart from his educational activity, we find very little to consider. Pierre de la Ramée came up to Paris with a limited, elementary education and a driving desire to secure more education. With notable sacrifice he did secure more. He completed the work which made him a master of arts and thereupon committed himself for the rest of his...

  10. 7 Ramist Method and the Commercial Mind
    (pp. 165-189)

    One of the persistent puzzles concerning Peter Ramus and his followers is the extraordinary diffusion of their works during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The general pathway of this diffusion has been well known since Waddington’s Ramus in 1855. It proceeds chiefly through bourgeois Protestant groups of merchants and artisans more or less tinged with Calvinism. These groups are found not only in Ramus’ native France, but especially in Germany, Switzerland, the Low Countries, England, Scotland, Scandinavia, and New England. Perry Miller’s work, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (New York, 1939), is still the most detailed study of...

  11. 8 Swift on the Mind: Satire in a Closed Field
    (pp. 190-212)

    It is with Jonathan Swift as it is with most essayists whose pronouncements spring from impulses more strategic than scientific. The frames of thought in which the observations are set are often of more significance than the observations themselves. In Swift’s case, certain of these frames of thought, intimately connected with the milieu in which Swift moved, can yield valuable insights into his own mind and style and can account for certain of his attitudes toward the human mind and its functions—perhaps most crucially of all for some remarks of his concerning the vexed question of poetry.

    In common...

  12. 9 Psyche and the Geometers: Associationist Critical Theory
    (pp. 213-236)

    The temper of eighteenth-century criticism is like the compunction recommended by Thomas à Kempis, more readily felt than defined. Attempts to deal with this criticism have operated with such theorems as Locke’s sensationalist philosophy, Berkeley’s idealism, various forms of authoritarianism, Cartesian so-called “anti-authoritarianism,” the controversy between ancients and moderns, and various other formulas. But, from whatever point it has taken its departure, recent study has brought out more and more the importance, at least strategic and symptomatic, of the contemporary associationist psychology in determining the critical climate. “It may be questioned, indeed,” writes Walter Jackson Bate, “Whether any or psychological...

  13. 10 J. S. Mill’s Pariah Poet
    (pp. 237-254)

    To an age given to prying open psychological secrets and casting up the accounts of other men’s minds, John Stuart Mill’s painstaking reports on himself in his Autobiography offer possibilities for the most part still strangely unexploited. Matched against his own psychological states as disclosed in his own story of his life, certain of his typical pronouncements reveal themselves as highly symptomatic and lay open both his mind and central issues at stake to an astonishing depth. Mill’s carefully pursued ratiocinations and the results to which they lead him are often more revealing than he knew.

    In particular, this is...

  14. 11 Romantic Difference and the Poetics of Technology
    (pp. 255-283)

    It is a classic observation that the romantic movement can be defined in a great many ways, some complementary and some competing. But whatever way one defines it, one of the movement’s characteristics—more or less central depending on the particular definition—is a preoccupation with otherness, with what is different, remote, mysterious, inaccessible, exotic, even bizarre. Some historians make more of this characteristic, some less. But virtually all scholarship falls back on it to set off the romantic movement from the neoclassicism which preceded it.

    However, to bring out the full significance of romantic otherness neoclassicism will no longer...

  15. 12 The Literate Orality of Popular Culture Today
    (pp. 284-303)

    The relationship between present-day orality and the orality of preliterate man is, a subject few discuss in circumstantial detail. Many are aware of the marked orality of our culture today when compared with the culture of thirty years ago, before the electronic potential first mobilized in the 1840’s with the telegraph had matured and become interiorized in life styles and world views. But much talk and writing about present-day orality assumes that orality is orality and that since primitive man was highly oral and we are likewise more oral than our immediate ancestors, we are back in the state of...

  16. 13 Crisis and Understanding in the Humanities
    (pp. 304-336)

    “The proper study of mankind is man,” Alexander Pope wrote in his Essay on Man, expressing in highly quotable eighteenth-century English form a thought at root so old that no one will ever be able to establish its ultimate origins. The studies collected in the present book are concerned not only with man, but often with man’s study of himself as he engages in one of his central activities, verbal expression.

    Man’s ability to study himself, to reflect on himself and his achievements or failures, distinguishes him from the animals below him on the evolutionary scale. A subhuman animal’s perceptions...

  17. Index
    (pp. 337-348)