McLuhan’s biographical note for ‘An Ancient Quarrel’ 1946

Marshall McLuhan’s acquaintance with the classical tradition and its history comes from study and teaching in Canada, England and the United States. He was born in Edmonton Alberta and received his B.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1933, followed by the M.A. in 1934. This was followed by study at Cambridge University in England from which institution he received a B.A. in 1936, an M.A. in 1940, and a Ph.D. in 1943. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin, St Louis University and is now a member of the faculty at Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario. (Biographical note for McLuhan’s ‘An Ancient Quarrel in Modern America’, The Classical Journal, 41:4, January 1946)

Since even McLuhan’s biography is often mangled in studies about him and his work, a series of autobiographical sketches will be included in this blog. Noteworthy here is his nod to “the classical tradition and its history” just as he was about to begin teaching in Toronto. There he would meet Harold Innis who would influence him in several decisive ways.  Innis in turn was deeply grateful for the stimulation his work received from scholars in the University of Toronto Classics department:

An interest in the general problem was stimulated by the late Professor C. N. Cochrane [1889-1945] and the late Professor E. T. Owen [1882-1948]. (‘Preface’ to Empire and Communications, 1950)

Charles Cochrane and Eric Trevor Owen were leading lights in Classics at UT. Another member of the department at the time was Eric Havelock whose Preface to Plato would be cited by McLuhan repeatedly after its publication in 1963.1

  1. Havelock’s work was a decided influence on McLuhan from the late 1940s — see here.

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