McLuhan in the Classroom

Marshall McLuhan was a bizarre figure: a conservative Catholic who became the hero of the 1960s counterculture and a brilliant analyst of print culture who had trouble writing clear prose. In the Literary Review of Canada, Bob Rodgers writes an essay worth looking up which splendidly captures McLuhan and his times:

McLuhan, a stringy but handsome man at six foot two, with a literary moustache, could also have passed for a movie cowboy. He invited us to introduce ourselves. Anthropologist Ted Carpenter, notorious advocate of deinstitutionalized education and a long time cohort of McLuhan, muttered his name and gave a folksy wave. Three beatniks made no response. A sallow young man wearing a guitar gave a drowsy nod. A man in long short pants with knee socks who looked like an Eagle Scout, gave a perky salute and announced he was seeking transformation. Wilfred Watson, the poet and academic, was there, and his wife, Sheila Watson, author of The Double Hook. A dapper little man from an advertising firm reported he had come because he was looking for a fresh idea. A well-known announcer, Stanley Burke, who read the TV news on CBC, was there; also a professional magician wearing a cape, a dark-haired, bespangled fortune teller, an Inuit carver from Igloolik and a popular wrestler called Whipper Billy Watson.

2 thoughts on “McLuhan in the Classroom

  1. In 1960, the University of Toronto was Canada’s Oxford. The sultan of the combined departments of English at U of T was the renowned Milton scholar, ASP Woodhouse. When
    McLuhan was appointed to St. Michael’s College at U of T in the 50s, Woodhouse was widely reported to have said : “This is not the sort of person we want at this university.”

    By far the brightest student in the graduate seminar with McLuhan I iattended was a man from the University of Manitoba called Lennie Anderson. He was a spark, not just for us but for McLuhan. Regularly he lit things up.

    McLuhan gave Lennie a B. Lennie protested in a letter asking why he didn’t get an A. McLuhan answerd: “Oh you were definitely the best. But an A from me in this university could mark you unfit. Keep your head down, assemble your credentials, get tenure. Then you can tell them all to go to hell.

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