As I explain in a post at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Collection, I found a few more references to “secondary visualism” in Ong’s files. While both are of real interest, one of them, a one-page, single-spaced printout titled “Notanda for Informal Response” (written for the 1995 Midwest Modern Language Association Annual Convention session “Presences of the Word: Ong Studies for the 21st Century”), offers a radical rewrite of secondary orality as well:

Oral residue after writing and writing’s sequels. My PW, OL, &c.1 Very helpful: Brian Stock, The Implications of Literacy.

Secondary orality (orality interacting with writing, print, and electronics): not only in the electronic age (to which I first applied the term, directly to radio and television) but also in the manuscript and print ages and postmodern deconstruction. Paul, close of 2 Thess.

In addition, secondary visualism of manuscript age, and much more of print age (exactly repeatable visual statement) and of electronic communication (graphics).

While Ong’s three documented references to “secondary visualism,” of which this is one, and his one documented reference to “secondary literacy” are of serious import in and of themselves (see this post for cites), I’m interested here in how this reference to secondary visualism helps contextualize his revision of secondary orality. A lot to think about here.

If I’m understanding this, oral residue is oral seepage into writing and secondary orality, which Ong used to define as “technologically powered, demanding the use of writing and other technologies in designing and manufacturing the machines which reproduce voice” (“The Elusive Presence of the Word: An Interview with Walter Ong” 80)2 becomes orality shaped/influenced by writing, what Ong used to call textuality.

Here we find a return to the oralism-visualism interplay Ong was first exploring in his work on Ramus, with the oral and the visual running in complementary and parallel tracks. For instance, if we were to consider a medieval manuscript, a textual artifact from chirographic culture, while the verbal elements (i.e., the words on the page) would be some mix of oral residue and secondary orality, the visual elements of the page (including words and blocks of words as images) are aspects of secondary visualism.

Which leads me to ask, what is primary visualism? The natural world? Dance? Found art (as opposed to art made with tools)? Non-verbal face-to-face communication?

  1. The Presence of the Word and Orality and Literacy. []
  2. Kleine, Michael, and Fredric G. Gale. “The Elusive Presence of the Word: An Interview with Walter Ong.” Composition FORUM 7.2 (1996): 65-86. []