Marshall McLuhan Criticism - Essay

Marshall McLuhan with Gerald E. Stearn (interview date June 1967)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Stearn is an American educator, publisher, and editor. In the following excerpt from an interview originally published in Encounter in June 1967, McLuhan discusses some of his theories and comments on the critical reception of his work.]

[Stearn]: What originally led to your interest in media and the effect of media upon our culture?

[McLuhan]: I was gradually made aware of these things by other people—artists, the new anthropological studies. As you become aware of the different modes of experience in other cultures—and watch them transformed by new, Western technologies—it is difficult to avoid observation. It becomes inevitable to assume that what...

(The entire section is 5824 words.)

George Woodcock (essay date November 1971)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Woodcock is a Canadian educator, editor, and critic best known for his biographies of George Orwell and Thomas Merton. He also founded Canada's most important literary journal, Canadian Literature, and has written extensively on the literature of Canada. In the following essay, which was originally published in The Nation in November 1971, he compares McLuhan's vision of an electronic "global village" to worldviews expressed in Utopian literature.]

It has become a commonplace in discussing the effect of the media in modern society to point to the way in which reputations can be instantly made, and lost with equal rapidity. The situation is all the more piquant when this happens...

(The entire section is 2407 words.)

Anthony Quinton (essay date 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Quinton is an English philosopher and educator. In the following essay, he maintains that McLuhan is "an academic sheep in Tom Wolfe's clothing" whose theories are neither radical nor couched in a very original manner.]

Any effort to get a clear view of Marshall McLuhan's doctrines is seriously discouraged by his explicit and repeatedly expressed scorn for old-fashioned, print-oriented, 'linear', rationality. By rejecting as obsolete the humdrum business of setting out definite theses, assembling evidence in support of them, and undermining actual and possible objections, he opts out of the usual argumentative game of truth-seeking, rather in the style of a chess-player who kicks over the...

(The entire section is 4391 words.)

Arthur Kroker (essay date 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Kroker is a Canadian economist, educator, and critic who has written several studies on Postmodernism and popular culture. In the following excerpt, he evaluates McLuhan's contributions to the study of technology and some of his theories' shortcomings.]

Not the least of McLuhan's contributions to the study of technology was that he transposed the literary principle of metaphor/metonymy (the play between structure and process) into a historical methodology for analysing the rise and fall of successive media of communication. In McLuhan's discourse, novels are the already obsolescent content of television; writing "turned a spotlight on the high, dim Sierras of speech"; the movie is the...

(The entire section is 5501 words.)

Brian Fawcett (review date April 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In the following review, Fawcett offers a favorable appraisal of McLuhan's collected letters.]

With the publication of this overdue collection [Letters of Marshall McLuhan], it should be clear to anyone still not convinced that Marshall McLuhan is among the small company of intellectual geniuses Canada has thus far produced. Arguably, he has been our most exciting and original thinker, and the partial eclipse of his reputation in the past decade is an indictment of our national short-sightedness and mediocrity. We seem content to lavish our "high" cultural attentions on one-eyed English walruses like Robertson Davies, while our truly public attentions go to shallow media stars like...

(The entire section is 1020 words.)

Michael Bliss (essay date May 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Bliss is a Canadian historian and educator who specializes in the history of business, economics, and modern medicine. In the following essay, he assesses McLuhan's impact on Western culture.]

The young wonder who Marshall McLuhan was. Maybe some kind of TV commentator in the sixties? The rest of us remember "the medium is the message," and "a global village," and that McLuhan was otherwise unintelligible. He was famous for a while, and then sort of disappeared. You may have read the obituaries in 1980. Does anyone take seriously today this Canadian academic who was once billed as "the most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Pavlov"?

It seems that a...

(The entire section is 1561 words.)