Letters of Marshall McLuhan
Oxford University Press, 1987 - Biography & Autobiography - 562 pages
Called an 'oracle' and 'sage', the involuntary founder of an unofficial cult, Marshall McLuhan (1911-80) was one of the most famous men of the 1960s, from whose name a French word (mcluhanisme) was coined. His reputation as a communications theoriest was established by two of many books. TheGutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) explains how society and human psychology were changed when pre-literate oral culture was supplanted by the invention of the phonetic alphabet and a manuscript culture gave way to the Gutenberg era of movable type, the printing press, andmass-produced books. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), McLuhan's most widely read book, explores the next development, the electronic age, and its effects on individuals and society.The early letters in this collection offer a fascinating background to McLuhan's intellectual growth; the bulk of them, however, contain many interesting discussions of ideas that later became subjects in his books. His correspondents include some of the best-known names of the sixties andseventies and range from Woody Allen to Tom Wolfe. Heavily annotated, the letters are arranged in three sections, each with a period introduction:1931-1936 takes McLuhan through the University of Manitoba and Cambridge University.1936-1946 covers one year's teaching at the Univeristy of Wisconsin; two years at Saint Louis University; one year, with his bride, at Cambridge for work on his Ph.D.; four more years at Saint Louis; and two years as Assuption College, Windsor, Ontario. These letters include a large correspondencewith Wyndham Lewis.The last section begins in 1946, when McLuhan went to the University of Toronto. (Two years later he began a long correspondence with Ezra Pound.) Covering the period of McLuhan's fame, it ends in September 1979 with a letter to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, written shortly before McLuhan had a strokethat rendered him speechless.These letters have been selected from a large collection, now in the Public Archives of Canada, assembled by Corinne McLuhan, McLuhan's widow, and Matie Molinaro, his literary agent.
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