Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2016


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Calvin Troup

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Richard Thames


media ecology, Ramus, Walter Ong


This project examines Walter Ong’s scholarship and further situates Ong in the field of media ecology. Ong’s conceptions of mediated communication begin to take form in his early-career graduate research on Peter Ramus. While Ong’s scholarship on secondary orality, and orality and literacy generally has an optimistic tone, this project seeks to further understand how Ong frames his optimistic perspective on mediated communication by looking at his scholarship across his career.

Beginning with Ong’s dissertation project, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue and his related research we see thematic ideas that appear in his work throughout his career. Something that stands out is Ong’s deep affinity for rhetoric. What we learn from Ong’s Ramus research is how deeply Ramus’ system of organizing knowledge affected the practice and perception of rhetoric.

The present project begins with Ramus in the rhetorical tradition and examines Ramus’ interest in creating a system for dialectic that limited probability while also attempting to ensure rhetoric retained practical application. Next, I look at Ong’s research on Ramus. He wrote on the spread of Ramism, how it affected university pedagogy, how it influenced vernacular education. On shows how the role of rhetoric was influenced by Ramism, resulting in a divergence of rhetoric and logic.

After understanding some of the origins of Ong’s interests, we can see that he continues to explore the related ideas of system, method and mediation throughout his career seeking the opportunity to reconcile the distancing and interiority of fixed print and mediated communication. Ultimately he concludes that we have always engaged in some kind of ‘digitization’ and reinforces that rhetoric provides the opportunity for hermeneutic and deliberative engagement even within mediated communication.