Literary/Aesthetic Cliché-Probes



On America’s Bicentennial, July 4 ’76, I was standing on the top floor of one of the towers of New York City’s World Trade Center viewing the Tall Ships’ Armada sailing up the Hudson River. Over the loudspeaker broadcasting the ebullient ceremonies I heard the interviewer address Marshall McLuhan with a question about his thoughts on the future of America as it entered its third centennial.

with a question about his thoughts on the future of America as it entered its third centennial.

With no hesitation McLuhan answered:

“In one word, apocalypse.”

I knew Marshall McLuhan at the time and looking back at that incident 25 years later on Nov. 16 ’01, two months after the hijacked airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers of Manhattan’s skyline, I am not surprised at McLuhan’s synchronicity. It comes with the Tradition he represented

(Eric McLuhan in WHO WAS MARSHALL McLUHAN?, Barrington Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan, 1994, p.241)

– and enlarged. How he massaged that Tradition is the intention of this expose and it may take a while to explain. But you’ve come this far, so why not continue.

For scholarly purposes Mcluhan has been classified as a principal of the Toronto School of Communication

(including Eric Havelock and Harold Adams Innis),

a phrase invented by Donald Theall

(McLuhan and the Toronto School of Communication in
UNDERSTANDING 1984, D. de Kerckhove and D. Jutras (Eds.), Occasional Paper No. 48, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Ottawa, 1984, pp.47-55 and later in Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, Vol. 10, No. 1-2, 1986, pp.79-88).

And many writers and/or scholars who were influenced by that milieu have subsequently published since McLuhan’s death on Dec. 31 ’80. It is through these works we will begin to pursue an exegesis of the role McLuhan played in the post-1960 Menippean Global Theater as it evoked a new kind of surreal, anarchistic autonomy and amnesia

“And I think it is this multiplicity of media that is now enabling man to free himself from media for the first time in history. He has been the victim, the servo-mechanism of his technologies, his media from the beginning of time, but now because of the sheer multiplicity of them he is beginning to awaken. Because he can’t live with them all.”

Marshall McLuhan,
Prospect, Canadian Art Magazine,
Volume 19, September/October, 1962, p.365.