Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding: The Authorized Biographyby W. Terrence Gordon
The originator of such widely used phrases as "the global village” and "the medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhanthe prescient media guruis finally, attracting the critical attention he deserves. In the 1960s McLuhan blazed the intellectual territory which we are only coming to grips with today. This couldn’t be a better time for a
The originator of such widely used phrases as "the global village” and "the medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhanthe prescient media guruis finally, attracting the critical attention he deserves. In the 1960s McLuhan blazed the intellectual territory which we are only coming to grips with today. This couldn’t be a better time for a readable, full-scale treatment of his writings, a book that reflects the range and depth of his thought accurately and accessibly. Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding fills this gap.W. Terrence Gordon traces McLuhan’s beginnings in the prairie city of Edmonton, Alberta, through his education at Cambridge and teaching in America to his startling breakthroughs in communication while at the University of Toronto. McLuhan’s central place in the ferment of the 1960s is evocatively drawn and the formation of his most brilliant insights into the media are clearly explained. This is the first book to mine McLuhan’s extensive personal and public writingsjournal entries; correspondence with family and luminaries such as Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Peter Drucker, and Clare Boothe Luce; manuscript notes and files; and all of his publicationsto bring us an authoritative, well-rounded, and passionate portrait of one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.Written in the best tradition of intellectual biography, Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding will infect readers with the vitality of McLuhan’s ideas, drawing them into his mind and leaving them with an indelible image of the warm, whimsical, spiritual man whose playful conceptual explorations revolutionized the way we see the world.
Timeunkind to so many visionariesis proving Marshall McLuhan only more and more prescient. His theories, popularly summed up in his famous phrase "The medium is the message," seem to describe our computerized age with eerie precision. He was able to recognize, for example, that the computer would rapidly become an extension of the central nervous system, allowing individuals to extend the range of their sense perceptions. While computer- friendly, his opinion of television, often misunderstood and rarely enunciated in its full disdain, verged on the alarmist: "If you want to save one shred of Hebrao-Greco-Roman-Medieval-Renaissance-Enlightenment-Modern-West ern civilisation, you'd better get an ax and smash all the sets." Given where his ideas would take him, it is superficially incongruous that McLuhan began his professional career as an English professor. But language has fueled much late-20th-century philosophy, and as Canadian academic Gordon (McLuhan for Beginners, not reviewed, etc.) meticulously demonstrates, much of McLuhan's work was substantively informed by a concern with grammar (in the classical sense of the study of relationships within language). At a time when many intellectuals chose either communism or Catholicismusually for reasons more similar than oppositeMcLuhan chose the Church, and Gordon again carefully illuminates the connections to McLuhan's work. His ideas were dense, complex often to the point of convolution, and thoroughly interwoven. Gordon is not only a user-friendly explicator, he also is a dogged intellectual detective, tracking McLuhan's ideas down to their earliest beginnings.
In more conventional biographical terms, this account suffers from the happily married, academically regimented dullness of its subject's life, conjoined with Gordon's relative lack of interest in all non-idea-related details. But as an intellectual history, it's first-rate.
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