MARSHALL McLUHAN by Philip Marchand


The Medium and the Messenger
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Marchand, a former student of McLuhan's, has turned his expertise as cataloguer of the McLuhan papers in Ottawa's National Archives to good use in this thoroughgoing biography of the media guru. McLuhan was a most unlikely hero for the searching youth of the 1960's. Had they but known that they were following an arch-medievalist who claimed to have a special relationship with the Blessed Virgin and whose early works wedded the themes of Chesterton and Leavis, they might have turned and run for cover. But thanks to the propensity of the media to forsake the essence for the image, Sixties rebels found compatibility in McLuhan's mistrust for advertising, big business, and industrialism. The icing on the cake was McLuhan's uncanny ability to refine the heart of an argument into a neat phrase ("the medium is the message"; "the global village" "sensory impact"). Marchand takes us from McLuhan's early years as an indulged child in Edmonton (where he failed the sixth grade), through his years of boredom at the U. of Manitoba (where he claimed that his English professor spoke for an hour on Milton without telling him anything new), through his years at Cambridge (where he was awakened to the New Criticism of F.R. Leavis), to his various professorships at the U. of Milwaukee (where he observed that the way to kill his despised popular culture was to give it the same serious treatment in the classroom that Shakespeare or Dickens got), St. Louis U., St. Michael's College, and, finally, the U. of Toronto. A fine biography that tackles with equal aplomb the life and the ideas (and for more on those, see McLuhan & Powers, reviewed above).

Pub Date: March 31st, 1989
ISBN: 89919-485-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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