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.

So what?

Marshall McLuhan (April 16, 2010, age 99). This is too much!

“Corinne, he’s at it again!  That Hinton bloke is going to be the death of me.”

“Marshall, you know that’s impossible.”

Me (April 2010, age 57).  The implications are profound

Clearly, Marshall McLuhan’s biographers have recognized that McLuhan’s brain surgery had serious and irreversible effects on Marshall McLuhan:  that he was fundamentally changed.  But they do not seem to realize – or want to realize – the extent to which McLuhan changed or what this change means for our understanding of McLuhan and his work.

Of all McLuhan’s biographers, Douglas Coupland comes closest to capturing the seriousness of the effects of the surgery.  But he does not go far enough or draw from it some basic conclusions.  (If you have been following this blog you know that my belief is that the surgery killed McLuhan’s genius.)  Here, I think, are three of those conclusions:

  1. Reading McLuhan is difficult, but the true McLuhan is to be found in the essays and books he published before the surgery of November 1967.
  2. Reading McLuhan is far more difficult in the essays and books published after his surgery because they were stamped by the influence of the surgery and that of his colleagues and co-authors.
  3. The best way to understand McLuhan (conversation not writing was his strength) is to attempt to hear him speak in interviews, letters, and the memoirs of the people who knew him.  As always, I believe, it is best to pay more careful attention to McLuhan in the years before his surgery than after.

What implications of this for your understanding of Marshall McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan (2009)], pp. 182-83, p. 185

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 17th, 2010
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1 Comment to So what?

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    I was his student attending his graduate seminar of 78-79. I knew him earlier, but on very casual basis.
    He was astounding in that last grad course, a genius. I then conclude that if your thesis is correct, prior to the 67 problem he was a super genius! I became close with Theall his first PhD student a man himself of huge intellect. Theall pointed out that the McLuhan project had peaked by the mid-fifties. However, there was never an indication from Theall that McLuhan was a ‘lessor brain.’

    I postulate that McLuhan was unable to move forward for reasons other than the surgery. They are mainly social/political.

    Here’s the question. Why hasn’t the McLuhan project moved forward since Jan 1981? Have we figured out the facebook world with any other meaningful proposition other than McLuhan? The “Digi” is still in the bottle spinning towards Bethlehem to be born. Open the bottle and who will you see? My bet’s on the Scots Irish man. It’s a pretty big bottle. Who’ll be with him? You’re going to need another 300 days.

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