Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness

Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness

by Walter J. Ong
     
 

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What accounts for the continued popularity of the macho image, the fanaticism of sports enthusiasts, the perennial appeal of Don Quixote's ineffectual struggles? Walter J. Ong addresses these and related questions as he offers new insights into the complex ways in which human life is affected by contest. Ong argues that the struggle for dominance, which he feels is

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Overview

What accounts for the continued popularity of the macho image, the fanaticism of sports enthusiasts, the perennial appeal of Don Quixote's ineffectual struggles? Walter J. Ong addresses these and related questions as he offers new insights into the complex ways in which human life is affected by contest. Ong argues that the struggle for dominance, which he feels is crucial among higher animal species, is more immediately critical for males than for females, helping males to manage persistent insecurity and to establish sexual identity. The male agonistic drive finds an outlet in contests as diverse as football, cockfighting, and chess—the last, the ultimate intellectualization of formalized territorial combat.

Demonstrating the importance of contest in biological evolution and in the growth of consciousness out of the unconscious, Ong shows how adversarial today's shifting patterns of contest in such arenas as spectator sports, politics, business, religion, academe, and the history of rhetoric. Human internalization of agonistic drives, he concludes, can foster the deeper discovery of the self and of distinctively human freedom.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Fighting for Life is a book about contest, the agonia of the Greek arena, and its roots in male life, especially academia. Ong describes this work as an 'excavation' which was prompted by his previous explorations of such areas as the characteristics of oral and literate cultures, Peter Ramus and his 16th-century intellectual milieu, and the early dominance and more recent decline of classical rhetoric in education. In Fighting for Life, he weaves the results of a year’s study of agonistic structures running through the biological, social, and noetic worlds. Describing his text as an ‘essay in noobiology,’ the biological roots of human consciousness, Ong claims that ‘contest has been a major factor in organic evolution and it turns out to have been a major, and seemingly essential, factor in intellectual development.’ . . . The work is a valuable synthesis of a wide body of research and theory."—Rhetoric Society Quarterly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801478451
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,452,093
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Walter J. Ong, SJ, (1912 -2003) was Emeritus University Professor of Humanities, William E. Haren Professor of English, and Professor of Humanities in Psychiatry at St. Louis University. His major interest was in exploring how the transition from orality to literacy influenced culture and changed human consciousness. In 1978 Ong served as elected president of the Modern Language Association of America.

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