Café Mouffe: Marshall McLuhan

While reading W. Terrence Gordon’s biography of Marshall McLuhan, I came across a McLuhan pronouncement so absurd that I need to figure out how to fit it into my MiT6 presentation:

In North America … TV has not been the friend of literacy except to encourage depth involvement in language as a complex structure. In other words, TV fosters the Finnegans Wake approach to language.

Huh? Like almost everything McLuhan ever said, this “probe” is at once intriguing and preposterous. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and I’ve read (which means I’ve listened) to enough of the Wake to surrender to its word-horde, but I never found a deep structural convergence between TV’s commercial blather and Joyce’s mythopoetic text.

Gordon’s “authorized” biography follows a trove of McLuhan family letters and sprawling unpublished manuscripts. The book is long on cryptic quotations and short on social history that puts McLuhan in any kind of context  that explains how the nutty professor got so far out there. As a teenager in the late 1960s, I wondered what he was smoking, and I wanted some. The medium is the massage.

Musing on this led me back to Finnegans Wakes McLuhans, presented first in the Mouffe last May. I love the counterpoint of McLuhan’s deadpan voice with the outrageous video shots. My thanks to MyCluein for pushing the probe into other post-Gutenberg galaxies.

Encore: Time for a little oral amputation? “If Homer was wiped out by literacy, literacy can be wiped out by rock,” says Marshall in McLuhan – Rock On. “A strip-teaser puts on her audience by taking off her clothes. I put you on by bearing my mind. I put you on as an audience. I wear you as my coat.”

Café Mouffe opens on Fridays at 3:00 p.m. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the set notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

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