A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Don’t read your critics, write them!

Marshall McLuhan (March 9, 1965, age 53). Critics!

I’m delighted that Harold Rosenberg has written a review of Understanding Media in the New Yorker.  I don’t think I will ever get around to reading it, however, I do think I’ll drop him a line to tell him where he went wrong.

Me (March 2010, age 57). A critical response

Harold Rosenberg’s review of Understanding media published in the February 27, 1965, issue of the New Yorker was one of the pieces that helped make McLuhan famous.  (You can find it reprinted in Gerald Emanuel Stearn, ed. McLuhan: Hot & Cool, 1967)  McLuhan wrote to Rosenberg on March 1, 1965 to complain that Rosenberg was wrong to say that his writing was repetitive.   McLuhan insisted that he did not repeat things.  Rather – if I understand him correctly – with each return to an idea in a different context he was actually revealing small and subtly different meanings in it.  In his words the ‘scenery does not change but the texture does.’

It is remarkable that McLuhan would write to a critic to set him straight (this does not seem to me to be a wise thing to do) and even more remarkably that at the time he wrote him he had not actually read Rosenberg’s review himself (which also does not seem to me to be a wise thing to do.)

How do you deal with critics?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 318.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Don’t read your critics, write them!

  • re: your ‘From Marshall and Me’ blog

    Great ‘collision’ of ideas, probes and percepts !
    Keep up the good work !

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