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.

The small matter of quotation.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 62).  The question of quotation.

My editors at McGraw-Hill have driven me to distraction on the vexed subject of quotation.  They tell me I should only quote someone I disagree with.  What an idea.  No one has ever thought about the things I agree with only the things I disagree with?  As I was saying to Ted Carpenter we should give credit to those who have come before us – those we stand on the shoulders of.  That doesn’t mean we don’t need to make choices.  The trick is to give credit to genius and pass by the fortunate but mediocre.

Me (July, 2010, age 57).  The rules

The writer Kingsley Amis, I think it was, once said that the first duty of the writer is to write not to quote.  McLuhan thought differently.  His books lean so heavily on quotation that it is understandable that his editors would try to persuade him to quote less and write more.

McLuhan’s rules seem to be:  quote liberally (up to 50 words from poetry, 500 from prose), quote from established authorities, don’t worry too much about context, and never under any circumstances quote Marshall McLuhan, it will only get you in trouble with academics.

Apart from questions of copyright, do you have rules for quotation?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand.  Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989 p. 179.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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