The Presence of the Word

Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History

Walter J. Ong

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September 10, 1967
378 pages, 5 x 8
ISBN: 9780300099737
Paper

This provocative exploration of the nature and history of the word in some of its social, psychological, literary, phenomenological, and religious dimensions argues that the word is initially aural and in the last analysis always remains sound; it cannot be reduced to any other category. Father Ong contends that sound is essentially an event manifesting power and personal presence, and his descriptive analysis of the development of the media of verbal expression, from their oral sources through the laborious transfer to the visual world and then to contemporary means of electronic communication, shows that the predicament of the human word is the predicament of man himself. Examining the close alliance of the spoken word with the sense of the sacred, particularly in the Hebreo-Christian tradition, he reveals that in a world where presence has penetrated time and space as never before, modern man must find the God who has given himself in the Word which brings man more into the world of sound than of sight.

"While Ong ranges over the entire history of man and culture, evoking and exhibiting his claims rather than arguing for them in detail, he opens up for us a fresh and exciting perspective for understanding a wide range of human phenomena."—Review of Metaphysics

"This book can well serve as a comprehensive survey, evaluation, and integration of most of what is known about the intricate relationship of modes of thought and communication technologies. . . . [Ong] organizes his wealth of material in a comprehensive theological frame of reference. . . . Original and persuasive."—Christian Century

"[A] valuable contribution to the enterprise which seeks to link literature with theological and biblical studies."—Theology

"An indispensable for the biblical student of today as was the work of R. Bultmann a generation ago."—Werner H. Kelber, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly
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