Marshall McLuhan: Cosmic Media
Publication Year: 2005
Subject: Cultural Studies (general)
'Feted and reviled in his own lifetime, Marshall McLuhan has made a dramatic comeback in recent years. Marchessault gives a balanced and carefully considered appraisal of McLuhan’s contribution to cultural theory, which may be even more pertinent now, in the early twenty-first century, than when he originally formulated it in the 1950s and ‘60s' Jim McGuigan, Professor of Cultural Analysis, Loughborough University Why is McLuhan important? What use can we make of his approach to the media today? In this insightful critical introduction, McLuhan's contribution is carefully explained and his reputation reassessed. The book: · Explains McLuhan's key ideas · Engages with critical issues in media and contemporary art · Demonstrates the relevance of his work for students of media and communications · Addresses his ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: Cambridge
Part II: America
- Chapter 4: Early Media Studies and Mama's Boys
- Chapter 5: Experimental Seminar
- Chapter 6: Innis, New Media and the University
- Chapter 7: Galaxy
- Chapter 8: Sacred Technologies, Historical Imagination
Part III: Global Theatre
© 2005 Janine Marchessault
First Published 2005
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, only with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
SAGE Publications Ltd
1 Oliver's Yard
55 City Road
London EC1Y 1SP
SAGE Publications Inc.
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, California 91320
SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd
B-42, Panchsheel Enclave
Post Box 4109
New Delhi 110 017
British Library Cataloguing in Publication data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 0 7619 5264 0
ISBN 0 7619 5265 9
Library of Congress Control Number available
Typeset by C&M Digitals (P) Ltd., Chennai, India
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Athenaeum Press, Gateshead
I would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a grant in support of this project as well as the Department of English at McGill University and the Department of Film and Video at York University, for generous administrative and research support. This manuscript was a long time in the making and during that time I have benefited from the intellectual companionship of many groups: colleagues who are part of the Culture of Cities Project in Canada as well as my longtime friends who have kept the Public Access Collective vibrant and connected to public art in Toronto.
I am particularly indebted to Christine Davis and Susan Lord for the sustained intellectual and creative conversations on matters McLuhan. I would like to thank my colleagues at McGill who encouraged the project in its initial stages, most especially Will Straw. I would also like to thank Chantal Kudzi-Zadeh for initial research and Nancy Shaw for inspiring conversations that helped me to understand language poetry. At York University, I am grateful to my colleagues Brenda Longfellow and Evan Cameron for continued encouragement; I would like to thank Theresa Scandiffio, Jen Vanderburgh, and Malve Petersman for help with research; Ken Alan, Julie DiCresce, and Karyn Sandlos for their insightful comments on earlier drafts; Brian Hotson for his work on the index; and Richard Kerr for letting us use an image from his video McLuhan (1993) for the cover; Lorraine Hardie for just being there. I would like to thank Chris Rojek for encouraging this project and for his patience over the years, as well as Kay [Page viii]Bridger, Ian Antcliff and Susan Dunsmore for bringing the book to completion.
Finally, my deepest gratitude goes to my partner Philip Hoffman for his unfailing support and love and to Jessie, my daughter who, on the brink of adolescence, has helped me to see computer galaxies in an entirely new light – I dedicate this book to her.
CA From Cliché to Archetype CC City as Classroom EM Essential McLuhan GG The Gutenberg Galaxy IL Interior Landscape LM Laws of Media MB The Mechanical Bride RPUM Report on Project in Understanding New Media UM Understanding Media VP Through the Vanishing Point
Introduction: McLuhan's Project[Page x]
I feel that we're standing on the threshold of a liberating and exhilarating world in which the human tribe can become truly one family and man's consciousness can be freed from the shackles of mechanical culture and enabled to roam the cosmos. I have a deep and abiding belief in man's potential to grow and learn, to plumb the depths of his own being and to learn the secret songs that orchestrate the universe. We live in a transitional era of profound pain and tragic identity quest, but the agony of our age is the labor pain of rebirth.
I expect to see the coming decades transform the planet into an art form; the new man, linked in a cosmic harmony that transcends time and space, will sensuously caress and mold and pattern every facet of the terrestrial artifact as if it were a work of art, and man himself will become an organic art form. There is a long road ahead, and the stars are only way stations, but we have begun the journey. (McLuhan, Playboy interview, 1969/1995: 268)
Marshall McLuhan's theories of media, art and culture are being re-examined in the context of new digital cultures and globalization. This book provides a close reading of some of his key texts to discern the contribution his thinking can make to our understanding of the present condition of convergent and yet unstable media cultures. Throughout McLuhan's wide-ranging writings on the media, his central contribution to communication and cultural studies does not consist in any one theoretical insight. Rather, McLuhan's writings over a 40-year period from the 1940s on to his death in 1980 are consistently concerned with [Page xi]understanding the contemporary media as a problem of method. The key to any analysis of the media, which for McLuhan was always connected to the spaces and temporalities of the lifeworld, is a reflexive field approach. Oriented around the archival, encyclopedic, and artifactual surfaces but also ‘haptic harmonies’ and ruptures, this method draws out patterns that render ground assumptions and matrices discernible. This was encapsulated in his most famous neologism, ‘the medium is the message’. McLuhan drew his insights from philosophers of language and modernity: the Cambridge New Critics (Leavis and Richards especially) who were his teachers, along with Nietzsche, Bergson, and Heidegger – all-important influences on his experimental pedagogy.
McLuhan's career encompasses the multiple meanings of the word project: the process of creating, an oral performance, refracted light, psychological transference, a forward moving action, a community in the making. While this book will seek to situate a number of influences and people that informed this project, it is crucial to place McLuhan's engagement within a Catholic intellectual tradition that encompasses Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. We see this reflected in his belief that human cognition and perception are ‘miracles’ (‘Catholic Humanism’: 80) that make possible a shared experience of the everyday. Hence all scholarship is essentially research and exploration, it is a dialogue with others. This belief that our engagement with the world will always be a transformative and creative one will drive McLuhan's inquiry into the fundamental process and value of human communication throughout his career – from his doctoral dissertation on Thomas Nashe and the Learning of His Time to his posthumously published Laws of Media. The humanist ecumenical tradition highlights the importance McLuhan placed on interdisciplinary models of pedagogy and on the significance of a field of study that engages with contemporary culture.
McLuhan's contribution to the study of communication is distinguished by an approach that is aesthetically based, highly performative and historically grounded. Utilizing formal techniques drawn from the Symbolists and twentieth-century avant-garde forms (James Joyce in particular), McLuhan's experimental [Page xii]writings and literacy projects presented a cognitive function for art. His many collaborations with graphic artists, along with his belief that we would all be artists by the twenty-first century, anticipated the central place of interactivity and design in the new information environments of our century.
A public intellectual and media commentator, famous for a brief time, McLuhan, along with his long time collaborator, the radical anthropologist, Edmund Carpenter, organized one of the first truly interdisciplinary research projects in North America. This endeavor was accompanied by several interdisciplinary journals (Explorations being the most famous) and the establishment of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. It is this interdisciplinary experience in the early 1950s fuelled by a desire to create a new field of communications study, that would have a decisive impact on the development of McLuhan's most productive and lasting formulations: the medium is the message, centre-without-margins, acoustic space, non-linear space, prosthetic memory, the global village, hot and cool media among others.
Throughout the 1940s, McLuhan's approach to analyzing culture was cinematic. It was based on a theory of aesthetic arrest and retracing drawn from the Symbolist poets and expressed by film artists such as Sergei Eisenstein and Cesare Zavattini. He saw the cinema and certain forms of poetry as the reproduction of human cognition. In these aesthetic techniques, he saw possibilities for new interdisciplinary and aesthetically based methodologies that would stimulate ideas and insights in the present situation which is difficult to discern since we are in it. In the 1950s and with his colleagues in Toronto, McLuhan developed a phenomenological understanding of culture that was inspired by the oral cultural traditions that Carpenter and Harvard anthropologist Dorothy Lee were studying. We can note that McLuhan moves from a notion of culture as landscape to one of environment, from spectatorship to immersion, and from the cinematic as an analogy for human cognition to television as the new reality and a new methodology.
If there is something truly unique and original in McLuhan's inquiry, and I believe there is, it is not only that he brings aesthetics [Page xiii]to communication studies but that his project is marked by the meeting of television and anthropology. McLuhan looked to anthropology for clues to comprehend electric culture in terms of a new construction of space-time relations, new ways of being in the world. McLuhan's project provides a pedagogical imperative for the interdisciplinary study of living cultures as forms of mediation. This book argues that McLuhan's experimental writings can help us to formulate new methodologies for a politically conscious and phenomenologically sensitive humanist scholarship. His commitment to historicizing knowledge as an expression of mentalities does so by breaking down the boundaries between disciplines across the arts and sciences, between nations and cultures, between corporealities and technologies while recognizing and juxtaposing differences. Across McLuhan's explorations of the electric galaxy, he discerns a reconfiguration and increased significance of locality and difference in the face of the globalizing and homogenizing forces of modernity. As national boundaries become more porous and new information technologies enable and create the need for greater collaborations (both economic and culture, both equitable and imperialistic), he discerns a shift in the experience of the margins. He would call this an experience of the ‘centre without margins’. In effect, he develops a methodology that enacts this new consciousness that he believes is a direct consequence of technology.Relations
McLuhan is concerned with the relations between things, both with how consciousness produces relations in order to make meaning and how seemingly unrelated things – the telegraph and the Civil War, or the chorus line and print culture – when taken as contiguous reveal structural homologies. In his world, everything is related and interconnected as it was in the medieval Cosmos. It is the task of the researcher to materialize the web of human relations. McLuhan is not interested in simple connections, however. For it is not the connection between things that will reveal underlying structures, rather, it is in exploring the intervals, oppositions [Page xiv]and interfaces between things, the historical shifts and breakages that mark the emergence of new civilizations, that will enable us to grasp an underlying unity. What is often not understood about McLuhan's methodology is that it is historical, and inspired by the anonymous histories of Siegfried Gideon, Wyndham Lewis, Erwin Panofsky, Lewis Mumford and Harold Innis – and more fundamentally by Vico. McLuhan's project grows out of a periodization of communication technologies that is not linear but cyclical. Moving from orality to literacy and back to orality again, McLuhan describes the emergence of new tribal cultures produced by electric media. While these are oral, they do not represent a return to older forms but are a new cultural manifestation that we can decipher through older non-western cultural formations.
Thus, McLuhan's periodization resists the interpretation of electric cultures as a simple return to an archaic consciousness. Yet his cyclical view of history is nevertheless teteological and infused by the conjunction of electricity and spirit. This romantic and mystical association, not uncommon among the French artists and intellectuals who so influenced him (from Mallarmé to de Chardin), produces the kabalistic paradox, which is the relatedness of multiplicity and unity, of the one and the many. This simultaneous experience of unity and multiplicity enabled by the electronic media represents a kind of cosmic consciousness that McLuhan never defines but which is akin to Jung's collective unconscious. There is a dialectic at play in McLuhan's work between the historical materiality of language as cultural artifact and the transcendental aspects of his Thomistic views. Cosmic Media seeks to highlight this tension by maintaining Catholic humanism as an ever-present framework in his thinking.Fame
We can divide McLuhan's career into two periods, essentially before and after fame (the fame itself was short-lived, only about five years from 1966 to 1971). His rise to becoming a clichéd figure in the electric galaxy he sought to analyze was highly orchestrated. It was a marketing experiment carried out by [Page xv]Howard Gossage and Gerald Feigen and supported by Gossage's San Francisco advertising firm. For McLuhan it was a pedagogical experiment with form (using the media to create awareness of the media) that he believed to have been miraculously successful (Marchand, 1989: 172–3). It was perhaps this success that eventually proved to be his downfall – he was pressed, consumed and forgotten. There is something tragic in McLuhan's absorption and then hostile rejection by the media, which several films have sought to underscore (most recently McLuhan's Wake (2003) by Kevin McMahon.) David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) dramatized this tragic end to perfection with Professor Brian Oblivion dying of a brain tumor and immortalizing himself on television as a religious leader. The truth is stranger. Not only did McLuhan have a brain tumor removed on the eve of his rise to global stardom but also the surgery left him with large memory gaps (he had to reread many books), with hypersensitive audition and a new-found love of singing. A decade or so later, he had stroke which left him with aphasia. McLuhan, who had always stressed the haptic aspects of communication, was left with a dramatic incapacity to speak or to write (Marchand, 1989: 270–7).
When I began research for this book in 1995, the McLuhan renaissance was just beginning. I was swept up in an onslaught of new books, newspaper articles, documentaries and intellectual biographies all geared towards juxtaposing McLuhan with the rise of a radically transformed information society in the West that was being created by the Internet, wireless communication, digital technologies, CNN, etc. While McLuhan's writings do provide insights into the networked society, I have all too often found them misquoted or over-simplified. In discussing McLuhan with colleagues who teach communication studies, I have become increasingly suspicious that nobody reads McLuhan. Rather what is left of his ideas are the superficial clichés and neologisms taken out of context that were part of his later collage books. Thus, Cosmic Media reads McLuhan closely in order to consider some of his most fruitful methodologies and to situate his intellectual contribution within a history of ideas.
McLuhan produced eight books and over a thousand articles. I have chosen to examine three of his principle works – Mechanical[Page xvi]Bride (MB), Gutenberg Galaxy (GG) and Understanding Media (UM). Not only are these his only single authored books but they grew out of collaborative research projects in the 1950s and early 1960s that I believe represent his most complex research. I also examine some of his early literary essays collected in Interior Landscape (IL) and other works from the innovative journal Explorations. McLuhan's letters are a rich source of information, connecting his overall intellectual and creative life to his deep faith which he chose to keep private but which nevertheless was always present in his thinking. I have found a great deal of value in McLuhan's media guides, Report on Project in Understanding New Media, The City as Classroom (CC), and Laws of Media (LM). These texts are geared towards teaching and exploring the media and they continue to be very productive pedagogical devices. The oral aspects of McLuhan's œuvre are also a significant part of his project: lectures, thousands of talks and seminars reflect his commitment both to dialogue, and to media studies as performance.Cosmic Media
It is sometimes difficult to justify a linear book about an author committed to non-linear, aphoristic modes of thinking. However, I have written this book in the hopes of drawing out and clarifying some of the concepts that could be usefully considered in the present context of global media. Moreover, the oppositions between linearity and non-linearity were exaggerated by McLuhan because these concepts served as schematic tools to make sense of cultural formations. In reality, such oppositions, like the central one in McLuhan's work between orality and literacy, are not mutually exclusive. In oral cultures we find forms of writing, and literacy contains oral dimensions. Moreover, not all linear forms of exposition are simply a straight line, and some forms of collage invite linear interpretations.
Despite his commitment to the rhetorical tradition, McLuhan was a dialectical and an historical thinker. For this reason I have chosen to maintain a chronological form in the presentation of [Page xvii]some of his most important ideas. Although time and space have been transformed by technologies, the arrow of time has not, and this ontological dimension of experience was always a central one for McLuhan. This is why McLuhan's work is distinguished by an interest in the corporeal aspects of communication. He was just as interested in poetry as he was in consciousness, perception and the cognitive sciences. In fact, aesthetics, rhetorical form and perception are inseparable in any examination of the media. For this reason, experimental art as a laboratory of perception was a significant research tool for McLuhan, generating ‘anti-environments’ through reflexive experiments with technology.
McLuhan proposes a methodology for studying living cultures that is televisual. Inspired by early television's ontology, the methodology McLuhan proposed was process-oriented and open-ended. This aesthetic and experimental approach to media study might explain why McLuhan has had a much stronger influence on artists (Fluxus media and performance artists, sound poets, graphic designers, etc.) than on academics. Régis Debray puts it nicely:
Was McLuhan's name too often in the newspapers for him to be taken seriously by the academy? The proper name's transfiguration into logo, trademark and cliché (a match in acoustic space to the Marlboro man, Chaplin's cane or Marilyn's flared-out skirts) did nothing to facilitate the esteem; and most of us are familiar with the superior tone, somewhere between irritation and playfully mocking, that in the right circles is elicited by this impostor-prophet, this garish and muddled showman, whose buzzwords are every man-in-the-street's common coin – Gutenberg galaxy, ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ media, message and massage, etc. – and whom no hard science type grants any seriousness or intellectual dignity (1996: 69–70)
This lack of ‘intellectual dignity’ continues to accompany the name of McLuhan but in my experience it seems to be generational. Isabelle Stengers has commented that it is not that academic trends and attitudes change but that people die (2000). I will say no more except that a new generation, which has grown up with television and lives with computers, is more open to McLuhan's experimental techniques and metaphors.
We should never lose sight of the fact that McLuhan was playing a game, writing satire, punning, using rhetorical devices [Page xviii]borrowed from advertising to capture his audience's attention. Media studies, whether written or oral, are always performative because these must engage with living cultures. This lack of seriousness frustrated his critics no end precisely because McLuhan refused to defend his own ideas. His game was an endless and sometimes reckless speculation about the present moment, the one that had just passed. The challenge to deal with the present was the one he posed to the academy.
McLuhan's ideas remain most vivid when connected to an historical and social context. Cosmic Media is divided into three parts which seek to situate them spatially: Cambridge, America and the Global Village. These geographies are virtual and part of McLuhan's cosmic consciousness. For a young man living in Manitoba, Canada, Cambridge and America were mythological spaces of great intellectual and imperial power. Later McLuhan came to focus more strictly on the Global Village as a stage (still imperial and American) through which the events of the world were narrated for North American and Western European audiences. Despite the rhetoric of cosmic connections, there is in McLuhan's writings, especially throughout the 1950s, a highly developed awareness of the inequitable distribution of wealth and technology in the world. His writings disclose a sensitivity to multicultural and gender differences which I believe reflects the very important collaborations with Edmund Carpenter.
Although McLuhan wrote much about the electronic media, he was essentially a man of letters. While a great deal of his work was committed to non-linear and experimental forms of writing and thinking, this work grew out of a life that moved forward with tremendous intentionality and energy. It was directed by an ecumenical project that was remarkably consistent from beginning to end, and its goal was to spread the word and raise consciousness.
Cosmic Media does not spend much time defending McLuhan against his detractors. The criticisms are many and should be taken seriously: he ignores the content of the media at his peril; his oppositions, while heuristic, are nevertheless too rigid; he has no analysis of the political economy of technologies; there is an underlying mysticism in his thought that accounts for some of his most ahistorical statements; his formalism occludes any account [Page xix]of power; he romanticizes oral traditions often in overtly Orientalist ways. We cannot ignore these issues. However, I also hope, by focusing on McLuhan's methodology, to highlight what I consider to be some of his most sensible and original contributions.
McLuhan does not answer questions so much as raise them. We can read him as an artist who creates tools that foreground the ethics of reflexive methodologies. Yet to distinguish McLuhan as a Romantic artist as does George Steiner when he compares him to Blake (McLuhan Hot and Cool, 1967: 239) is to misrepresent his project. McLuhan is a creative researcher and an interdisciplinary thinker who is deeply connected to the Romantic tradition. He does not make art so much as recognize the value of art as a means to discern the production of mediated forms of consciousness. We should bear in mind that McLuhan never claimed to be anything more than ‘a student’ immersed in the new interdisciplinary field of Media Studies that his work helped to inaugurate.[Page xx]
Afterword: Evidence of Things Not Seen[Page 225]
Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
The evidence of things not seen. (St Paul)
McLuhan combines a history of mentalities with a discussion of technologies, aesthetics and phenomenology. He sees human communication in terms of the miracle of perception and of language. As I have attempted to highlight throughout this study, McLuhan's approach to the media is premised on a faith in a common human bond. He was concerned with ‘the evidence of things not seen’ and he was occupied by ‘the transparent meanings of miracles’, that is, their symbolism (Carpenter, 2001: 247). Let me conclude this study with a film by Toronto artist Barbara Sternberg that centres on small gestures, a phenomenology of everyday life and symbolic exchanges that crystallize many of the themes touched upon in McLuhan's project. Like a Dream that Vanishes (1999) juxtaposes three interrelated puzzles: a philosophical discussion of miracles, cinematic ontology, and human communication. The film opens with scratched emulsion, a house at night, a woman swimming, flickering colors, a baby on a beach, roads – images marked by a beautiful materiality. We cut to John Davis, Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, who lays out the film's central problematic with the eloquence and passion that comes from a lifetime of contemplating paradoxes: Do you believe in miracles? Divided into seven short parts, reference no doubt to the myth of [Page 226]Creation, this question is defracted across the film. As John Davis takes this question apart, explicating David Hume's sceptical denouncement of miracles, Sternberg presents us with a montage of movements, reframing the argument in a rhetorical flash of light: a white lamb, optically printed lightening bolts, sun reflecting off of water, light streaks across emulsion. Sternberg cuts back to philosopher John Davis throughout the film; his presence and words inflect our reading of the images. An old man at the end of his life, Davis looks shyly towards the camera, speaking to the film-maker directly as if in conversation. Each time we return to him, the argument and the debates that ensued from Hume's famous challenge to religious belief are clarified in greater detail: possibly the definition of miracles was not accurate enough, perhaps we don't know enough about the laws of nature leaving the very character of a miracle inconsonant. Yet as the film unfolds, the argument against miracles appears increasingly incomplete, unresolved. Is it simply a word-game or can it tell us something about the world we inhabit?
In the juxtaposition of those small everyday gestures so familiar in Sternberg's films – film scratches, emulsion flares, Niagara Falls, children playing, teenagers drinking beer and smoking hash, a lake seen from a boat, two women in loving conversation, more children, the sky, the wind in the trees, light on water, old men debating in a town square, a woman blowing out a birthday candle, more children's parties, a man running on a dirt road, a young woman leaning over a bridge, a woman swimming – there is something present. In these images, silent for the most part, cut rhythmically to create a collage intensified by the contemplative music of Rainer Wiens, Hume's argument is displaced by the film-maker's sense of wonder.
Located in and through the connectedness of things, people and nature, the film sculpts an acoustic space that reconfigures the linearity of the argument. It lays the argument to rest on the brink of uncertainty, of excess – a mosaic of details reveals irreducible patterns of singularity. The birthday candle about to be blown out reoccurs throughout the film and is one of its central picturings: children blowing out candles, opening gifts, a woman leaning over, eyes closed, breathing a wish out into the darkness. [Page 227]Such images speak to human yearnings, parochial faith: hoping, wishing, innocent belief in the future.Experience
John Davis died shortly after Sternberg filmed the interview with him in 1998. This brings an added dimension to his reflections and presence in the film. Towards the end of the interview, he tells us that every culture has built into its very structure, the need to understand ‘what it's all for’, a need to make sense of the universe. Yet no one has solved the riddle, and the world is filled with contradictions and inconsistencies. Philosophy, he feels, has come full circle, is moving back to its origins of ‘beginning in wonder’. He continues, ‘the world is not a very tidy place, in fact, it's pretty messy’. Davis leans back in his chair and gives Sternberg a beautiful mischievous smile. This is the last time we will see him.
The fact that the world is a ‘messy place’ was the reason that McLuhan was attracted early on to the neo-realism of Zavattini. He was not as interested in theory as he was in developing methodologies for exploring situations in all their complexity.
Like a Dream that Vanishes does not resurrect anyone from the dead, nor does it promise a miracle, what it conveys, however, are the limits of the knowable, of the sacred contained in the very materiality of the life-world, in social rituals and languages, in the communication between people. The two lengthy sync-sound sequences in the film concern social interaction: two East Asian women sitting across from one another at a table, discussing a map, laughing, gesturing, engrossed in each other's directions. Teenagers hang out on a front porch in a Toronto neighbourhood, drinking and smoking pot to pass the evening hours. The camera does not intervene or pass judgement in either case, it simply captures at some distance the communication and the sharing that exists between people.
These social exchanges are grounded in gestures, words, clothes, meaningful glances. That is, they are in the cultural fabric and rhetorical forms that bind communities. The final [Page 228]sequences of the film record communities in movement. Marches, parades, and celebrations of solidarity are sites of communal identities and communication in Toronto: Chinatown, Caribana, the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. The very last image in the film returns us to the black-and-white sequence of a woman blowing out a birthday candle. It brings us to the wish and crucially to the gift. It is fitting that Sternberg ends the film on this image for gift-giving is perhaps the oldest of social rituals, initiating and maintaining relationships. It is a gesture that is undoubtedly at the root of community as Mauss's work on the society of the gift has shown. The gift as the manifestation of relationality of the space between things is held out not as actuality but as potentiality, tied to the wish that disappears into darkness. It is this darkness that the film insists upon, and like a dream that vanishes, we are left swimming in the uncertainty not of a future tense but of the present moment, which is always passing. Inherent in this moment of communication, of wishing and of gift, there are always the social structures of ritual and emotion, of hierarchies and of power that generate changes and revolution. It is this space that McLuhan always reserved for the power of art as expression of human cognition and enchantment. To the accusation that he lacked ‘the full understanding of the drama of human relations’, he would respond:
I have been amazed at the range of current drama and perhaps have been mesmerized rather than illuminated. There is a phrase of Aristotle's: Causae ad invicem causae sunt. This is the drama that I am involved in, and it is very difficult to find a beginning, middle, or end except in the most arbitrary way. What I have found is enormous enjoyment and thrill in experiencing the events that are on every hand. It seems to me that this steady enjoyment of these events is a sufficient value system insofar as it asserts the joy of mere existence. (quoted in Theall, 2001: 219)
Bibliography[Page 229]Marshall McLuhan Cited Works‘The aesthetic moment in landscape poetry’, in AlanDowne (ed.), English Institute Essays. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 168–81 (1952).‘Aesthetic patterns in Keats' Odes’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 12 (2): 167–79 (1943).‘An ancient quarrel in modern America’, Classical Journal, 41 (4): 156–62 (1946).‘Canada: the borderline case’, in DavidStaines (ed.), The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 226–48 (1977).‘Catholic humanism and modern letters’, in Christian Humanism in Letters: The McAuley Lectures, Series 2. West Hartford, CT: Saint Joseph College, pp. 49–67 (1954).‘Coleridge as artist’, in Clarence D.Thorpe, CarlosBaker and BennettWeaver, The Major English Romantic Poets: A Symposium in Reappraisal. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 83–99 (1957).Counterblast. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World (1969).Culture is Our Business. New York: McGraw-Hill (1970).‘Culture without literacy’, Explorations, 1: 117–27 (1953).‘Edgar Poe's tradition’, Sewanee Review, 52 (1): 24–33 (1944).‘Excerpts from a paper given at the National Conference on Canadian Goals’, Financial Post, 26 September, p. 57 (1964).‘Foreword’ (1964) Bias of Communication by HaroldInnis, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.‘Foreword’ (1975) Empire and Communications by HaroldInnis, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.From Cliché to Archetype. New York: Viking (1970).‘G.K. Chesterton: a practical mystic’, Dalhousie Review, 15: 455–64 (1936). The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press (1992).[Page 230]‘Guaranteed income in the electric age’, in RichardKostelanetz (ed.), Beyond Left and Right: Radical Thought for Our Times. New York: William Morrow, pp. 72–83 (1968).The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1961).‘Innis and Communication’Explorations3 (August 1954): 96–126.‘James Joyce: trivial and quadrivial’, Thought28 (108): 75–98 (1953).‘Joyce, Aquinas, and the poetic process’, in Thomas E.Connolly (ed.), Joyce's Portrait. New York: Appleton Century Crofts (1962).‘Joyce, Mallarmé, and the press’, Sewanee Review, 62 (1): 38–55 (1954).Letters of Marshall McLuhan, eds MatieMolinaro, CorinneMcLuhan and WilliamToye. Toronto: Oxford University Press (1987).‘Living at the speed of light’, Maclean's, 93: 32–3 (1980).‘Manifestos’, Explorations, 8: n.p. (1957).The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. New York: Vanguard (1951).‘New media as political forms’, Explorations, 3: 120–6 (1954).‘Notes on Burroughs’, Nation, 195 (5): 7–19 (1964).‘Notes on the media as art forms’, Explorations, 2: 6–13 (1954).‘People of the word’, Explorations, 8: n.p. (1957).‘Poetic vs rhetorical exegesis: the case for Leavis against Richards and Empson’, Sewanee Review, 52 (2): 266–76 (1944).‘Pound's critical prose’, in PeterRussell, (ed.), Ezra Pound: A Collection of Essays. London: Peter Nevill, pp. 165–71 (1950).‘Radio and Tv vs. The Abced-Minded’, Explorations, 5: 12–18 (1955).Report on Project in Understanding New Media (1960) National Association of Educational Broadcasters: United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare.‘Space, time and poetry’, Explorations4: 56–62 (1955).‘Tennyson and picturesque poetry’, Essays in Criticism, 1 (3): 262–82 (1951).Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill (1964).‘Wyndham Lewis: his theory of art and communication’, Shenandoah, 4 (2–3): 77–88 (1953).With ‘Classroom without walls’, Explorations, 7: 22–6 (1957).,With The Medium is the Massage (vinyl LP, produced by John Simon). Columbia Records of CBS, Inc. (1967).and ,With The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. New York: Bantam (1967).and ,With War and Peace in the Global Village. New York: Bantam (1968).and ,With The City as Classroom: Understanding Language and Media. Agincourt, Ontario: Book Society of Canada (1977).and ,With Laws of Media: The New Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1988)., [Page 231]With Take Today: The Executive as Drop-Out. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1972).,With Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting. New York: Harper and Row (1968).,Other Works Quoted1997) ‘The transformation of English studies 1930–1995’ Daeldalus (Winter): 105–131.(1977) ‘Letters to Walter Benjamin’, in Aesthetics and Politics, trans. and ed. R.Taylor. London: New Left Books.(1990) From Milton to McLuhan: Ideas and American Journalism. London: Longman.(1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.(1958) The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.(1993) ‘Culture and Anarchy’ and Other Writings, ed. StefanCollini. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511802072(1968) Writing Degree Zero, trans. AnnetteLavers and ColinSmith. New York: Hill and Wang.(1970) Mythologies, trans. AnnetteLavers. London: Vintage.(1977) Roland Barthes, trans. RichardHoward. New York: Hill and Wang.(1978) A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, trans. RichardHoward. New York: Hill and Wang.(1981) Le Grain de la voix: Entretiens 1962–1980. Paris: Editions du Seuil.(1986) Eroticism: Death and Sensuality, trans. MaryDalwood. San Francisco: City Lights Books.(1983) Simulations, trans. PaulFoss, PaulPatton and PhilipBeitchman. New York: Semiotext(e).(1995) Simulacra and Simulation. trans. SheilaGlaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.(Benedetti, Paul and DeHart, Nancy (eds) (1996) Forward through the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on and by Marshall McLuhan. Scarborough, ONT: Prentice Hall.1969) ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’, in Illuminations, ed. HannahArendt and trans. HarryZohn. New York: Schocken Books.(1999) The Arcades Project, trans. HowardEiland and KevinMcLaughlin and ed. RolfTiedemann. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.(2000) Capital Culture: A Reader on Modernist Legacies, State Institutions and the Values of Art. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press.and ([Page 232]2002) Politics of Enchantment: Romanticism Media and Cultural Studies. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.(1974–5) ‘Eisenstein's epistemological shift’, Screen, 15 (4): 37–54.(1989) The Invention of Progress: The Victorians and the Past. Oxford: Blackwell.(1999) The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.(1990) Life to those Shadows, trans. BenBrewster. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.(1984) Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. MichaelShaw. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.(1983) The origins of the radical discourse on Cultural Studies in the United States, Journal of Communication (Summer): 311–313.(1989) ‘McLuhan's method (or: The Mad Hatter at tea with Austin and Wittgenstein)’, unpublished lecture notes for address to the Conference of the Film Studies Association of Canada, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, 20 May.(1968) ‘Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan’, in McLuhan: Pro and Con, ed. RaymondRosenthal. Baltimore, MD: Penguin, pp. 270–308.(1981) ‘McLuhan and Mumford: the roots of modern media analysis’, Journal of Communication, 31 (3): 162–78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb00440.x(1986) ‘Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan and the emergence of visual Society’, Prospects, 11: 29–38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S036123330000524X(1970) ‘The mythos of the electronic revolution’, American Scholar, 39 (2)(3): 219–41 (395–429).and (2001) ‘That not-so-silent sea’, in DonaldTheall, The Virtual Marshall McLuhan. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 236–61.(Carpenter, Edmund and McLuhan, Marshall (eds) (1966) Explorations in Communication: An Anthology. Boston: Beacon Press.2001) The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.(1994) City Form and Everyday Life: Toronto's Gentrification and Critical Social Practice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(2002) McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1990) Border Dialogues: Journeys in Postmodernity. London: Routledge.(1975) Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Dell Publishing Co.(1990) The Heart of the Global Village: Technology and the New Millennium. London: SCM Press.(1910) What's Wrong with the World. London: Cassell.(1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, ed. and trans. ClaudiaGorbman. New York: Columbia University Press.(1936) Coleridge's Miscellaneous Criticism, ed. Thomas MiddletonRaysor. London: Constable.([Page 233]1978) Culture as Polyphony: An Essay on the Nature of Paradigms. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.(1981) ‘McLuhan: the aesthete as historian’, Journal of Communication, 31 (3): 144–52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb00438.x(1982) Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.(1983) Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red(1996) Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms, trans. EricRauth. London: Verso.(1964) Of Time, Work and Leisure. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.(1983) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. RobertHurley, MarkSeem and Helen R.Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.and (1954) Descartes: Philosophical Writings. London: Nelson.(1949) Oliver Twist. London: Oxford University Press.(1986) Travels in Hyperreality. London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.(1974–5) ‘Problems in film stylistics’, Screen, 15 (4): 23–29.(1979) The Printing Press as Agent of Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.(1949a) ‘Dickens, Griffith and the film today’, in Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, trans. JayLeyda. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.(1949b) ‘A dialectical approach to film form’, in Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, trans. JayLeyda. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.(1969a) The Film Sense, trans. and ed. JayLeyda. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.(1969b) Selected Essays. London: Faber and Faber.(1961) The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. New York: Harper and Row.(1950) Selected Essays. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co.(1955) The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism. New York: Barnes & Noble.(1965) Seven Types of Ambiguity. Harmondsworth: Penguin.(1997) The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800, trans. DavidGerard. London: Verso.and (1978) The Critical Twilight: Explorations in the Ideology of Anglo-American Literary Theory from Eliot to McLuhan. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.(1982) ‘Massage in the mass age: remembering the McLuhan matrix’, Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, 6 (3): 50–66.(1991) ‘Marshall McLuhan revisited: 1960s Zeitgeist victim or pioneer postmodernist?’, Media, Culture and Society, 13: 71–90. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/016344391013001005(1968) Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan. New York: International Publishers.([Page 234]2001) Marshall McLuhan: Wise Guy. Montreal: XYZ Publishers.(1984) A Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: St Martin's Press.(2002) Design and Crime and Other Diatribes. London: Verso.(1971) The Order of Things. New York: Patheon Books.(1980) ‘Two lectures’, in ColinGordon (ed./trans), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. New York: Patheon Books.(1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. AlanSheridan,(2nd edn.New York: Vintage Books.1961) Beyond the Pleasure Principle, ed. JamesStrachey. New York: Norton.(1999) The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. JoyceCrick. Oxford: Oxford University Press.(2001) McLuhan and Baudrillard: The Masters of Implosion. London: Sage.(1967) Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition,(5th edn.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.1970) Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. New York: Oxford University Press.(1959) ‘The Renaissance conception of the lessons of history’, in WilliamWerkmeister (ed.), Facets of the Renaissance. New York: Harper and Row.(1960) Art and Illusion. New York: Pantheon.(1997) Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding: A Biography. New York: Basic Books.(1998) Method is the Message: Re-thinking McLuhan through Critical Theory. Montréal, New York: Black Rose Books.(1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press.(1996) ‘On postmodernism and articulation: an interview with Stuart Hall’, in DavidMorley and Kuan-HsingChen (eds), Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge, pp. 131–50., with (1977) The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. WilliamLovitt. New York: Garland Publishing.(1989) ‘Probing the legacy: McLuhan's communications history twenty-five years after’, Canadian Journal of Communication, 14 (Winter): 30–45.(2003) Harold Innis. Maryland: The Rowan and Littlefield Publishing Group.(2000) Marshall McLuhan and Virtuality. Cambridge: Icon Books.(1950) Empire and Communications. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1951) The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.([Page 235]1956) Essays in Canadian Economic History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1970) The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1981) The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.(1989) ‘The heat and the light: towards a reassessment of the contribution of H. Marshall McLuhan’, Canadian Journal of Communcation14 (Winter): 1–29.(1977) ‘Foreword’, in The I Ching or Book of Changes, trans. RichardWilhelm, rendered into English by Cary F.Baynes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. xxi–xxxix.(1961) The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe. London: Hutchinson.(1984) Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan, Grant. Montreal: New World Perspectives.(1930) Mass Civilization and Minority Culture. Cambridge: Minority Press.( 1949) Revaluation: Tradition and Development in English Poetry. London: Chatto and Windus.(1933) Culture and Environment: The Training of Critical Awareness. London: Chatto and Windus.and (1959) Freedom and Culture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.(1976) Valuing the Self: What We Can Learn from Other Cultures. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.(1967) The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. London: Oxford University Press.(1928) Time and Western Man. New York: Harcourt Brace.( 1973) Doom of Youth. New York: Haskell House.(1972) Studies in European Realism, trans. EdithBone. London: Merlin Press.(1999) ‘Avant-garde as software’, in StephenKovats (ed.), Ostranenie. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag.(2001) The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.(1989) Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger. New York: Ticknor & Fields.(1994) Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.(1981) The Information Society as Post-Industrial Society. Bathesda: World Future Society.(1989) ‘Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan: theories of history’, Signature (Summer): 71–89.(McNamara, Eugene (ed.) (1969) The Interior Landscape: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan. New York: McGraw-Hill.1973) The Prose of the World, trans. JohnO'Neill and ed. ClaudeLefort. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.([Page 236]1971) Marshall McLuhan. New York: Viking Press.(1991) Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. London: Vintage.(1961) The City in History: Its Origins, its Transformations, and Its Prospects. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.(1963) Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.(1994) Who Was Marshall McLuhan?: Exploring a Mosaic of Impressions, ed. FrankZingrone, WayneConstantineau and EricMcLuhan. Toronto: Stoddart.and ( 1995) ‘Playboy interview: Marshall McLuhan’ (Playboy, March), in EricMcLuhan and FrankZingrone (eds), Essential McLuhan. Toronto: Anansi Press, pp. 233–69.(1923) The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and the Science of Symbolism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.et al. (1981) ‘McLuhan as teacher: the future is a thing of the past’, Journal of Communication, 31 (3): 129–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb00436.x(1990) History of Communications: Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and the Interpretation of History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1963) The Dunciad, ed. JamesSutherland,(3rd edn.London: Methuen.1984) ‘Artists discovering film in post-war Toronto’, Vanguard, 13: 5–6.(1974) Pantagruel. Paris: Gallimard.(1941) The New Criticism. Norfolk, CT: New Directions.(1925) Principles of Literary Criticism. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.(1950) Coleridge on Imagination. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.(1962) Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgement. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.(2004) Kids and Media in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.and . (1989) Canadian Journal of Communications14 (Winter): i–ii.(1990) ‘Broadcasting politics: communications and consumption’ in ManuelAlvarado and JohnThompson (eds), The Media Reader. London: BFI.and (1968) McLuhan: Pro and Con. Baltimore, MD: Penguin.(1965) ‘High priest of pop culture’, Maclean's, 78 (131): 42–3.(1989) No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge.(1992) F.R. Leavis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1956, 1988) Being and Nothingness. Trans. RuthNehad. New York: Paragon Books.(2001) The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.([Page 237] 1891) A Defence of Poetry, ed. Albert S.Cook. Boston: Ginn.(2001) Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.(1999) Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press.(1999). A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press.(1990) ‘The bias of theory: a critique of Pamela McCallum's “Walter Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan: Theories of history”’, Signature3 (Summer): 44–62.(1995) Unthinking Modernity: Innis, McLuhan and the Frankfurt School. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.(Stearn, Gerald E. (ed.) (1967) McLuhan: Hot and Cool: A Critical Symposium with a Rebuttal by McLuhan. New York: Dial Press.1967) ‘As for Blake, McLuhan is his successor over and over again’, in GeraldStearn (ed.), McLuhan: Hot and Cool. New York: Signet Books.(2000) The Invention of Modern Science, trans. Daniel W.Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.(1995) Understanding Media Cultures: Social Theory and Mass Communication. London: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446221310(1971) The Medium is the Rear-View Mirror: Understanding McLuhan. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.(2001) The Virtual Marshall McLuhan. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.(Thompson, Denys (ed.) (1932–53) Scrutiny. Cambridge: Deighton Bell, May 1932-October 1953.1991) Cultural Imperialism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.(1999) Globalization and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.(1989) Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling and Medical Power. New York: Oxford University Press.(1985) Applied Grammatology: Post(e)-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.(1984) The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. Thomas GoddardBergin and Max HaroldFisch. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.(1960) Experiments in Hearing, trans. E.G.Wever. New York: McGraw-Hill.(1972) Vorticism and the English Avant-Garde. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1948) Space and Spirit; Theories of the Universe and the Arguments for the Existence of God. Hinsdale, IL: H. Regnery Co.([Page 238]1981) ‘Cinematic discourse: the problem of inner speech’, Screen, 22 (3): 54–69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/screen/22.3.63(1974) Television, Technology and Cultural Form. New York: Schocken Books. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203426647(1989) The Politics of Modernism. London: Verso.(1996) McLuhan, or Modernism in Reverse. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.(1990) ‘How are media born?’, in JohnDowling et al. (eds), Questioning the Media. London: Sage.( 2001) Tractatus, trans. D.F.Pears and B.F.McGuinness. London: Routledge.(1905, 1950) Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Later Art, trans. M.D.Hottinger. New York: Dover Books.(