In this article, Ong states that the categories "rhetoric" and "poetic" have always been important to the study of literature, and remain so today.  However, literary studies has not explored as fully as it might what the boundaries of these categories are, so Ong takes the position of a philosopher in order to address such issues.

One way to explore the boundaries between rhetoric and poetic is to look at the categories and their relationship to logic, as expressed in St. Thomas Aquinas' work.  While philosophical writing has a very intimate relationship with logic, rhetoric and poetry (especially poetry) have much more casual relationships with logic.  Nevertheless, in literary studies, poetry is often mistaken for rhetoric or philosophy, and the result is that while rhetoric and philosophy retain prominent positions through this type of criticism, poetry is ignored.

Still, Ong does not insist that there be some solution, in which the category of poetry is upheld in order to accord it more prominence.  Instead, the author acknowledges that most writing envelops multiple forms, and that we use the categories poetry, rhetoric, and philosophy to identify works that are primarily (but not entirely) poetic, rhetorical, or philosophical.  The fact that Ong is still in the early stages of developing his own theories when he pulls together such disparate categories as poetry, rhetoric, and philosophy in this article shows how innovative he was for his time.

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