The name of the magazine published by the UT seminar on Culture and Communication (1953-1959) and edited primarily by Carpenter and McLuhan was, of course, Explorations.  Now it is probable that this name came from a book by Lionel C Knights published in 1946, Explorations: Essays in Criticism Mainly On the Literature of the Seventeenth Century.1 Indeed, Knights went on to publish Further Explorations in 1965 and Explorations 3: Essays in Criticism in 1976. With these further Explorations titles, Knights may have been making the point that this name, if not, per impossible, original to him was at least his baby in the recent history of English criticism from the school of F.R. Leavis. Knights was a co-founder of Scrutiny with Leavis in 1932 and one of its co-editors for its entire history until its demise in 1953.

McLuhan was intimately familiar with Knights and his work since he (McLuhan) considered himself a working member of the Scrutiny school for the first 10+ years following his graduation from Cambridge in 1936.  Leavis and his book Revaluation are cited in McLuhan’s first UTQ publication in 1943, ‘Aesthetic Pattern in Keats’ Odes’.  Then the next year, in his essay ‘Poetic and Rhetorical Exegesis: The Case for Leavis against Richards and Empson’, McLuhan makes the bald assertion apparently referring to himself:

Mr. Leavis, with a rare sense of fact [‘tact’?] and without any chance of popular recognition, was engaged in executing the program which Mr. Eliot had indicated but relinquished. Just how well he succeeded the reader who has worked for six years with Revaluation is best able to say.

McLuhan mentions Knights lecturing in Toronto in a letter to Muriel Bradbrook from January 12, 1973 (Letters 462).

  1. McLuhan’s books, now at the UT Fisher Library, include 5 books by Knights. His 1946 Explorations is one of them.

Leave a Reply