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Marshall McLuhan Biography

(1911–80), McLuhan Hot and Cool, Harper's, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man

Canadian critic and theorist of popular culture and media, born in Edmonton, Alberta, educated at the universities of Manitoba and Cambridge. In the 1960s, when he was director of the University of Toronto's Center for Culture and Technology, his teasing publications on the history and contemporary cultural significance of technological developments in communications achieved controversial status internationally. McLuhan Hot and Cool (1967), with essays by Susan Sontag, Tom Wolfe, George Steiner, and others, and responses by McLuhan, was described by Harper's as ‘a philosophical discotheque’. His most important works are The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographical Man (1962), Understanding Media (1964), and War and Peace in the Global Village (1968). The central perception of McLuhan's world-view was that ‘any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment’ McLuhan's most important contribution to the continuing debate was his emphasis upon how the controlling power of global media may have rendered outmoded our very sense of identity, with profound moral and psychological consequences for society. He foresaw how the media explosion of the 1970s and 1980s would challenge traditional social and academic divisions, and in The Medium Is the Message (1967) he stressed the impossibility of unmediated access to ‘reality’. Later works include Culture Is Our Business (1970), The Interior Landscape: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan, 1943–62 (1969; edited by Eugene McNamara), and Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987; edited by Matie Molinaro and Corinne McLuhan, his widow, and annotated by William Toye).

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