McLuhan’s times

Loose note found in McLuhan’s copy of the University of Toronto Quarterly, 19:2, January 1950:

We can only correct the bias of the present time by coming to know it is a time, not the time.1

Tennyson and Picturesque Poetry, 1951

the Symbolists [took] aesthetic experience as an arrested moment, a moment in and out of time2, of intellectual emotion for which in their poems they sought the art formula by retracing the stages of apprehension which led to this moment.

‘Space, Time, and Poetry’, Explorations 4, 1955:

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 begins:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

Here the “time of year” (…) is visualized swiftly in three different ways in the second line and then a fourth and fifth time in the third and fourth lines. 

The Gutenberg Galaxy, 14 (citing Georges Poulet):

“For the man of the Middle Ages, then, there was not one duration only. There were durations, ranked one above another, and not only in the universality of the exterior world but within himself, in his own nature, in his own human existence.”

Understanding Media, 152

plurality-of-times succeeds uniformity-of-time

Through the Vanishing Point, 55:

If the three-dimensional illusion of depth [in Western European art] has proved to be a cul-de-sac of one time and one space, the two-dimensional [in Eastern art] features many spaces in multileveled time.

Through the Vanishing Point, p 103:

The Shakespearean moment (“that time of year”)3 includes several times at once…


  1. Transcribed by Andrew McLuhan in his incriptorium blog. Emphasis added here. The tone and date of this note point in the direction of Harold Innis.  Already in 1942 Innis had written: “The concepts of time and space must be made relative and elastic and the attention given by the social scientists to problems of space should be paralleled by attention to problems of time” (Journal of Economic History, December 1942, reprinted in Political Economy in the Modern State, 1946, p 34). And in 1948: “ The Chinese concept of time (…) as plural (…) reflects their social organization with its interest in hierarchy and relative stability” (The Press: a neglected factor in the economic history of the twentieth century, 1948, reprinted in Changing Concepts of Time, 1952, p 94).
  2. “A moment in and out of time”: unmarked quotation from Eliot’s Four Quartets: The  Dry Salvages.
  3. See the citation from ‘Space, Time, and Poetry’ above.