The Gutenberg Galaxy Critical Context - Essay

Marshall McLuhan

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Generally speaking, McLuhan’s cultural commentaries can be grouped into two categories: the more traditional and structured works, such as The Gutenberg Galaxy or Understanding Media, and his more innovative juxtapositions of images and brief, provocative commentary, found in such works as The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951), The Medium Is the Massage (1967), or Culture Is Our Business (1970). The subtitle of The Medium Is the Massage is especially significant—An Inventory of Effects—because this is the essence of McLuhan’s method: determining and explaining the effects which media and their extensions have on human beings and their culture.

Even in his more traditional writing, however, McLuhan was far from conventional. The Gutenberg Galaxy is indeed what its author proclaimed it to be: a mosaic of bits and pieces, evidence and proof gathered from a dozen different disciplines and at least 288 authors, cited in its bibliography. It is far ranging, it is lively and stimulating, and it is one of the central works in the McLuhan canon.

Along with Understanding Media, The Gutenberg Galaxy gives a definite form to McLuhan’s thesis about the impact of media and provides the most consistent and articulate presentation of his evidence in support of that thesis. It might be said that The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding...

(The entire section is 402 words.)