Form and Content
One of the dominant themes in modern studies of human culture has been the impact that communication and communications media have on persons and societies. The most famous exponent of this school is Marshall McLuhan, whose oftenrepeated phrase “the medium is the message” has become a slogan of cultural criticism. An equally important though perhaps less well-known figure is Walter J. Ong, who studied under McLuhan and later developed his own thoughtful and carefully researched studies on the relationship between communications media and culture.
The Presence of the Word presents the foundations of Ong’s explorations in this area. The subtitle of the volume is Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History, and the work is precisely that: a preliminary discussion, or prolegomena, that outlines the material to be studied. In other works, Ong goes into more detail, but in The Presence of the Word he offers a general view of the subject.
The genesis of the book was a series of Terry Lectures which Ong delivered at Yale University in April, 1964. These lectures seek to bring into focus the relationship between religion and advances in science and the humanities, a goal perfectly suited for Ong, a Roman Catholic priest and a cultural historian who gives particular emphasis to the role of the spiritual in human development. The Presence of the Word combines human concerns with theological implications....
(The entire section is 492 words.)