Monthly Archives: August 2016

Stamps on Havelock and McLuhan

Unthinking Modernity: Innis, McLuhan, and the Frankfurt School by Judith Stamps (1995):

McLuhan had not read Havelock at the time of writing The Gutenberg Galaxy… (129)

Since McLuhan referred to Havelock’s 1951 Crucifixion of Intellectual Man a decade before The Gutenberg Galaxy, this is clearly false. And there is much indirect evidence indicating that he read Havelock’s 1946-1947 essay in Phoenix, as well as his 1948 review in UTQ, as they appeared.

But Stamps seems to have used ‘McLuhan had not read Havelock’ here as a stand-in for ‘McLuhan had not read Havelock’s 1963 Preface to Plato‘ which, in reference to the 1962 publication of The Gutenberg Galaxy, is vacuously true.

Goody on Havelock, Innis and McLuhan

Literacy in Traditional Societies by Jack Goody (1975):

the somewhat extravagant work by Marshall McLuhan (…) elaborates on themes developed also at Toronto by Innis (…) and later by E. A. Havelock (whose Preface to Plato appeared in 1963)… (footnote on p 1)

This is an early example of the “later by E. A. Havelock” persuasion. Goody had, of course, no interest at all in the chronology he mentions in passing here and had done no research into it. But the notion gained traction and would be repeated in many quarters. 

Later, after 1990 when Patterson published Innis correspondence from 1951 showing his appreciation of Havelock’s orality research at that time, the “later by E. A. Havelock” thesis was back-dated from 1963 to 1951. But the publication date of that research was retained. Here is Jeffrey in 1997:

[In a letter to Frank Knight from 21 May, 1951 published by Patterson] Innis writes about Havelock’s work on “the question of the shift from the oral to the written tradition in Greek culture” which [work] was not published until 1963. (Jeffrey, 208) 

 

The gigantomachia in Dostoevsky

Notes from a Dead House:

Orlov (…) was not at all an ordinary man. I became more closely acquainted with him out of curiosity and studied him for a whole week. I can say positively that I have never in my life met a man of stronger, more iron character than he. Once, in Tobolsk, I saw a celebrity of this kind, the former chief of a band of brigands. He was a wild beast in the fullest sense, and standing next to him and not yet knowing his name, you sensed instinctively that you had a frightful creature beside you. But for me the horrible thing in him was his spiritual torpor. The flesh had  won out over all his inner qualities so much that from the  first glance you could see by his face that the only thing left in him was one savage craving for physical gratification, sensuality, fleshly indulgence.  I am sure that Korenev — the name of this brigand [in Tobolsk] — would even have lost heart and trembled with fear in the face of [physical] punishment, though he was capable of killing without even batting an eye. Orlov was the complete opposite of him. This was manifestly a total victory over the flesh. You could see that the man had limitless control of himself, despised all tortures and punishments, and had no fear of anything in the world. You saw in him only an infinite energy, a thirst for activity, a thirst for revenge, a thirst for attaining a set  goal. Among other things, I was struck by his strange haughtiness. He looked upon everything from some incredible height, though without any effort to stand on stilts, but just so, somehow naturally. I think there was no being in the world who could have had an effect on him by authority alone. He looked at everything with a sort of unexpected calm, as if there was nothing in the world that could surprise him.[1.Pevear and Volokhonsky translation.)

Typical characteristics of the gigantomachia to be noted here:

  • a struggle (Gk machia) is envisaged between enormous (gigantic) powers: “not at all (…) ordinary”; “frightful”; “horrible”; “total”; “limitless”; “infinite”…
  • the struggle is between one “complete opposite” and another: both are “a celebrity of this kind”, but champions of the opposite pole 
  • on the one side, materiality, earth, below: “wild beast in the fullest sense”; “a frightful creature”; “flesh had  won out over all his inner qualities”; “the only thing left in him was one savage craving for physical gratification, sensuality, fleshly indulgence”…
  • on the other side, ideality, sky, above: “total victory over the flesh”; “limitless control of himself”; “no fear of anything in the world”; “strange haughtiness”; “looked upon everything from some incredible height”; “no being in the world (…) had an effect on him”…

According to Plato, this is a struggle which is “always going on” between the giants of the earth and the gods in the heights…

Theall on Innis, Havelock and McLuhan

Virtual Marshall McLuhan by Don Theall, 2001:

McLuhan first read Innis in 1951, some three years after the initial publication of Empire and Communication (…) One can speak loosely of the existence in the late 1940s (…) of a “Toronto School of Communication” — since Eric Havelock (who was beginning his studies of orality and literacy), as well as Innis and McLuhan were all at Toronto. However, there was little actual contact between Havelock, Innis, and McLuhan, even though they were aware of one another’s work. (…) From my personal contact with McLuhan, which began three years prior to the seminar [on Culture and Communication, 1953-1955], I learned that (…) he was not personally close to Innis — which was clearly confirmed on two or three occasions at which I was present when Marshall conversed with Innis. (49)

In the space of a few sentences here, Theall makes a whole series of factual errors. Since these must have resulted from his “personal” recollection, they throw in some doubt those matters where his recollection is the only basis of their veracity.

It is not the case that “McLuhan first read Innis in 1951”.1 He commented on Empire and Communications in his letter to Innis which was first written either at the end of 1950 or very early in 1951.2 So McLuhan must have read Empire and Communications in 1950, the year of its publication (and not, as Theall, says, 1948, ie, “1951, some three years after the initial publication of Empire and Communication“). In fact, McLuhan recorded that the first thing he read from Innis was ‘Minerva’s Owl’  (which was published by UTP in 1948) which would accord with his participation with Innis in the Values Discussion Group of 1949.

Further, the title of Innis’ book was Empire and Communications, plural, not Theall’s Empire and Communication, singular. Further still, it is not the case that Havelock, Innis, and McLuhan “were all at Toronto” together “in the late 1940s” — or ever.  Havelock left Toronto for good in 1947 and in 1946, McLuhan’s first year at UT, Havelock was a guest lecturer at Harvard. Finally, Innis’ letter to McLuhan from January 12, 1952 — which begins, “I was immensely pleased to get your warm letter” — might serve to qualify, at least, Theall’s recollected impression that McLuhan “was not personally close to Innis”.3  

In a more concentrated look at ‘The Toronto School of Communications‘ Theall offers this synopsis:

The foundation of the Toronto School begins with Havelock and the way he interpreted Aeschylus’s play, Prometheus Bound, [= The Crucifixion of Intellectual Man, 1951] as a commentary on the dilemma of the rise of technology and its creation of a new sense of space, time and memory in a post-technological world dominated by a shift from orality to writing –- an argument he was later to develop at great length in a book McLuhan praised highly, The Preface to Plato. Innis openly admitted Havelock’s influence on his own work with his interest in communication technologies and the shift in biases toward time and space which resulted, [as manifested] in [works in] various media. McLuhan’s early work in his Cambridge doctoral thesis, Thomas Nashe and the Learning of his Time, and his first book, The Mechanical Bride, provided him with a unique access to Havelock’s work, presenting possibilities of reinterpreting, expanding and critiquing many of Havelock’s, and later Innis’s, insights. McLuhan was able to use the history of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric and their impact on shaping (…) and directing learning from Greece to Elizabethan England to extend Havelock’s history of Greek culture to that of the history of culture from the Roman Empire to the Reformation.

Theall certainly errs here in observing that “the foundation of the Toronto School begins with Havelock” in 1951. By that time, Havelock was already deeply engaged in his orality research and was long gone from Toronto, Innis had published his major contributions in communications (Empire and Communications and many of the essays included in The Bias of Communication), and McLuhan had published The Mechanical Bride. Despite this, however, the synopsis offered here is illuminating and demands close consideration. Particularly Theall’s well-founded specification of “a new sense of space [and] time” in Havelock and Innis is important in light of McLuhan’s investigations of spaces and times throughout the 1950s, culminating in his relativity theory of human experience sometime around 1960.

  1. As discussed below, this avowal is made by Babe and other historians of the Toronto school. Its effect has been to excuse researchers from looking into the facts of the matter before this time.
  2.  The copy in Letters (220-222) is dated March 14, 1951, but is identified as a “rewrite”.  In Innis’ February response to the original letter, Innis apologies for his late reply.
  3. Theall arrived in Toronto in the fall of 1950. This letter from Innis to McLuhan, written a little more than one year later, could not have fallen too far out of the time frame of the “two or three occasions at which I (Theall) was present when Marshall conversed with Innis”. Theall’s recollection here, going back 50 years, might have been colored by, eg, Robert Babe, who also maintained that the relationship of Innis and McLuhan was “not (…) particularly warm on a personal basis” (see here). Babe’s influence on Theall’s recollections may be suspected as well from Babe’s faulty contention, again to be found in Theall, that “only in 1951 did he (McLuhan) begin reading anything by that great political economist” (ibid).

The question of unity

And just as our individual experiences of our individual senses get processed by some sort of inner common sense which gives unity to the diversity of our sensations, so with the media as extensions of our senses. These cooperative technological extensions of ourselves undergo a social or communal processing which gives them unity… (Explorations 8, 1957, 1-18)

A sensus communis for external senses is what I’m trying to build. (McLuhan to Walter Ong on November 18, 1961, Letters 281)

Between these two dates (in the first of which ‘unity’ is a social fact, but in the second remains outstanding), presumably in the course of composing his Project in Understanding New Media, McLuhan seems to have realized that it was not enough to attest to unity as he and Giedion did:

Giedion: “in spite of seeming confusion, there is nevertheless a true, if hidden, unity, a secret synthesis, in our present civilization.” (Space, Time and Architecture, Foreword to the first edition, 1941.)

McLuhan: “There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation. (McLuhan to Harold Innis, March 14 1951, Letters 223)

Instead, he now understood (at a time when his mother’s health was fatally broken1 and his own was starting to break with “occasional blackouts and dizziness” (Letters, 175) and his children were falling away from the church) that the perception of unity was problematic (whatever its metaphysical status might be).  Further, that this failure of perception had potentially devastating effect when human destructive power was greater than ever and the world was smaller than ever. 

It may be guessed that his wrestling with “acoustic space” — which he would continue from 1955 until his death 25 years later — was above all motivated by the question of how to articulate a discontinuous and non-linear ‘unity’ in order to promote its renovated perception. And this at a time when, beyond the perennial problems posed to such perception by human mortality and evil and blindness, in the new situation of the electric era all traditional perspectives, with their associated particular conceptions of unity, were doomed.

  1. Elsie McLuhan suffered a debilitating stroke in 1956 and died in 1961.

Pre-Christian Logos

As the four levels of understanding and exegesis are found in both the secular and patristic traditions, they would seem to bridge the worlds of Paul and Apollo. (Pound, Eliot, and the Rhetoric of The Waste Land, 1979)

McLuhan did not perceive Christianity as being entirely original, as being entirely new wine appearing in the world without long preparation. Instead he thought of Christianity as the carrier of Logos, of an age-old truth, or truths, which it presented and celebrated (or presented especially via celebration) in revolutionary and superlative ways.

1948
When the Church Fathers adapted the neo-Platonic and Stoic concept of the Logos to Christian Revelation, they committed the church to many centuries of symbolism and allegory. The result was that for a very long time the outer world was seen as a net-work of analogies which richly exemplified and sustained the psychological and moral structure of man’s inner world. Both inner and outer worlds were mirrors in which to contemplate the Divine Wisdom. (Where Chesterton Comes In, 1948)

Here are further texts, in chronological order, in which McLuhan puts forward aspects of this view: 

1943
A brief consideration of Stoic philosophy will serve to indicate how the study of language and poetry could become completely wedded to the study of physics and ethics. Vernon Arnold’s fine study of Roman Stoicism points out (…) the Stoics (…)
 “adopted and developed a conception which exercised an extraordinary influence over other systems, when they attributed the exercise of all the powers of deity to the divine Word, which from one point of view is the deity, himself, and from another is something which emanates from him and is in some way distinct.Confronted with the great doctrine of the Logos, it is, perhaps easier to understand how grammar and etymology should have been esteemed as means of investigating both the nature of deity and the natures of phenomena. Inseparable from the doctrine of the Logos is the cosmological view of the rerum natura, the whole, as a continuum, at once a network of natural causes and an ordo naturae whose least pattern expresses analogically a divine message. This notion, already  implicit in the Chaldean cosmology, is the very basis of Plato’s Timaeus, the work of his which had the greatest influence of any of his works, both in antiquity and in the medieval times. If its full influence is to be explained, this dialogue should be seen as a statement of a cosmology already many centuries old, and one which had, long after Plato’s own day, exponents as different as the Pythagoreans and the Stoics. (The Classical Trivium: The Place Of Thomas Nashe In The Learning Of His Time, 1943, 20-21)

1943
The doctrine of the Logos, so important for understanding the interfusion of language and physics in the mind of antiquity, seems to have been adopted by the Stoics from Heraclitus of Ephesus, who propounded it in the early part of the fifth century. (…) The Logos or universal reason is at once the life and order which are in all things, and in the mind of man. When the Romans found it impossible to translate Logos by any single word “they therefore adopted the phrase ratio et oratio (reason and speech); in modern language it seems clearly to include also the broad notion of ‘Universal Law’ or the ‘Laws of Nature’.” It has often been pointed out how profoundly this doctrine of the Logos was received by Christianity; but it has not been seen that the intermediate stages by which the transference of influence occurred was the grammatical art or discipline, which was common both to Stoic physics and to the earliest Christian theology. Seen in the light of the doctrine of the Logos, the Stoic interest in etymology as a source of scientific and philosophic knowledge, is perfectly natural.  (The Classical Trivium: The Place Of Thomas Nashe In The Learning Of His Time, 22; the quotation is from Edward Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism, 1911)

1943
The use and continuance of the allegorical and etymological methods by the Stoics and Plato, as well as by Philo, St. Augustine, and St. Bonaventure, is not a carry-over from a primitive world-view. (…) The Stoic interpreters of poetry and mythology knew very well what they were doing, and did not derive their doctrines from, but applied them to, these matters. The Logos, far from being a piece of naïve animism, is metaphysical in character. (The Classical Trivium: The Place Of Thomas Nashe In The Learning Of His Time, 24)

1943
The central clue to the whole matter is once more provided by the doctrine of the Logos. Arnold, reporting [in Roman Stoicism] the ancient interpretation of the Logos as expounded by Heraclitus, says, “All things both in the material and in the spiritual world happen through the ‘Logos‘; it is a cosmic principle, ‘common’ or ‘universal’; and (…) it is the duty of man to obey this ‘Logos‘, and so to place himself in harmony with the rest of nature.” (The Classical Trivium: The Place Of Thomas Nashe In The Learning Of His Time, 62-63)

1943
From the earliest Greek times until the time of Descartes the upholders of civilized life never tired of expressing the fact that man as man is distinguished from the brutes by the power of speech. Inseparable from his rational soul and indispensable to his social and political life is the need to utter himself. Eloquence was therefore cherished as the finest expression of man’s excellence. This doctrine supported by the great doctrine of the Logos (ratio et oratio) inspired the ancient world to achieve and sustain those legal institutions which defined the civis and from which we have civilization. (Education of Free Men, 1943)

1946
The origin of this important claim for the inseparable character of eloquence and wisdom would seem to lie in the familiar doctrine of the Logos, which may be supposed to have arisen with Heraclitus. Society is a mirror or speculum of the Logos, as, indeed, are the external world, the mind of man and, above all, human speech. Society, ideally the cosmopolis or perfect world state, claimed the devotion of every virtuous man. And just as Zeno considered wisdom or prudence “not only as the first of the virtues, but as the foundation of all,” so political prudence is the noblest sphere in which to exercise this virtue. The Stoics deduced from this doctrine the corollary that “The bond of the state is the Logos (ratio atque oratio)”. Viewed from the standpoint of the doctrine of the Logos, man is distinguished from the brutes by speech, and as he becomes more eloquent he becomes less brutish. As he becomes less brutish he becomes more wise. There is thus no conflict between eloquence and wisdom; and since eloquence is the means to political power, the great orator, the great statesman, and the great philosopher are one and the same. (An Ancient Quarrel in Modern America, 1946)1

1950
In Mallarmé the Word has no theological overtones. It is rather a return to the pre-Christian doctrine of the Logos which included ratio et oratio and was the element in which all men were thought to move and have their being. (T.S. Eliot [Review of eleven Eliot books], 1950) 

1951
Many of the ancient language theories of the Logos type (…) have recurred and amalgamated themselves today under the auspices of anthropology and social psychology. Working concepts of “collective consciousness” in advertising agencies have in turn given salience and practical effectiveness to these “magical” notions of language. (McLuhan to Harold Innis, March 14 1951, Letters 220)

1955
But even for Aristotle the obvious fact about speech is that it is a technique of arresting the hearer’s mind and fixing his attention. For a culture of readers it seems strange to define speech as a series of acoustical gestures for arresting the mind. We had long ceased to speculate on this 
mystery until the mechanization of speech, image, and gesture brought the wheel full circle. Today, with all our technology, and because of it, we stand once more in the magical acoustical sphere of pre-literate man. (Space, Time, and Poetry, 1955, emphasis added)

1960
Multi-levelled exegesis of Ovid or Virgil or the Scriptures was not only a medieval mode of reading and writing. It preceded Christianity and was the norm among ancient “grammarians.” To-day it is again the norm in physics, in psychology, in poetry and the arts. (‘Grammars for the Newer Media’, 1960)

1978
I was not concerned with theology in my observations, but merely rhetoric and psychology. The speaker or performer has inevitably to “put on” his public as a corporate mask, and this involves simultaneously the three roles of the logos: the logos prophorikos (the uttered or spoken word), the logos spermatikos (the embedding of the seed in things), and finally, the logos hendiathetos (the mode of inner resonance): “You that have ears to hear, let them hear!” [Luke 8:8] (McLuhan letter to the editor of Commonweal, March 17, 1978)

1978
…”every sentence” involves the whole man and the whole art, as in the Logos of the Herakleitos epigraph at the opening of the poem [Four Quartets]. The theme is of liberation through involvement in the “timeless moments”, between the way up and the way down [=  ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή, “the Herakleitos epigraph”]. “Between two waves of the sea” is the resonant interval, the stilling of the unheard music that assures that “all shall be well”.  (R
hetorical Spirals in Four Quartets, 1978)2

1979
This “classic” poem [Hugh Selwyn Mauberly] has the claim to be truly classic in respect to its structural use of the five divisions of classical rhetoric. Seven years before the appearance of The Waste Land, Pound had developed the style of classical eloquence in contemporary poetry. He divided “Mauberly” into five numbered sections which are simultaneous, rather than sequential, resonant rather than logical, as are the five divisions of classical oratory as understood by Cicero and Quintilian. The importance of this simultaneity concerns the classical claim to embody the Logos in the resonant interplay of these divisions. (Pound, Eliot, and the Rhetoric of The Waste Land, 1979) 

Posthumous
The space of early Greek cosmology was structured by logos — resonant utterance or word. (Laws of Media, 35)3 

Posthumous
the spoken word, logos, functioned in oral society as the principal technology both of communication and of fashioning and transmitting the culture. Logos was also related to formal cause, to the existential essence of things. In this sense, Pedro Laín Entralgo observes, all things are, as it were, words, expressions: “The logos of the philosophers, from Thales to Democritus, was used to declare what things ‘are’. (…) The logos (…) belongs therefore to the very structure of being” [Therapy of the Word in Classical Antiquity]. The logos in its double sense of word and reason (the Romans had to translate it ‘ratio et oratio‘) was considered by the preliterate Greeks as the ‘highest and most specific’ of the gifts of nature. By means of active utterance, logos (speech), men could express what things are as well as exercise rhetorical power over other men. Fair words and lofty deeds are the titles of social excellence in Homer. Before writing, logos was active and metamorphic rather than neutral — words and deeds were related as were words and things. The logos of creation is of the same order: ‘Let there be light’ is the uttering or outering of light. (Laws of Media, 36) 

Posthumous
kosmos
and the logos that informs it are encyclopedic (as they concern the universe, ‘the world of nature taken in its widest sense’) and both are concerned with metamorphosis. These properties of the logos are of particular importance to the later development of Stoic and Roman grammar and rhetoric. (…) While common-sense acoustic space held sway, the cosmos was perceived as a resonant and metamorphic structure informed by logos: “The structure of man’s speech was an embodiment of the structure of the world.” (Laws of Media, 37, citing Harold Innis, Empire and Communication, 76) 

Posthumous
The Stoics developed a ‘threefold logos’ that served as the pattern for the trivium, although the trivium itself was not formally recognized as the basis of education and science for some time. The pre-alphabetic logos was retrieved in two ways; it informed the Patristic ‘doctrine of the logos,’ and it was recapitulated in the overlapping structures of the threefold Stoic logos. (Laws of Media, 124) 

Posthumous
Following the Greek rhetorician Isocrates, Cicero, and after him Quintilian, established the basic pattern for Western civilized education, reaffirmed by St Augustine four centuries later, as the alignment of encyclopedic wisdom and eloquence. That is, with the trivium as a retrieval of the oral logos on the new ground of writing, the conjunction of grammar and rhetoric on the one hand, and dialectic on the other, provided a balance of the hemispheres. (Laws of Media, 124-125)

 

  1. Originally a 1944 lecture in St Louis.
  2. The Four Quartets quotations are from ‘Little Gidding’, lines 227; 238; 254; 258.
  3. Laws of Media was published posthumously. Most of the notes incorporated into the volume by Eric McLuhan came from late in his father’s career.

Ted Carpenter on discovering ‘auditory space’

Ted Carpenter’s ‘That Not So Silent Sea’ is included as an appendix to Donald Theall’s The Virtual Marshall McLuhan (2001). Somewhat differently from McLuhan and Williams (see ‘Autobiography 1954: McLuhan & Williams on discovering ‘auditory space’)1, he recalls the discovery of ‘auditory space’ in their Culture and Communication seminar as follows:

Carl Williams (…) sought to refine psychology to an objective science. It was for this reason he was invited to join the group. We felt we needed his bias to balance ours (…) to get Ford funding. [Yet it was] Carl [who] provided the first breakthrough [of the seminar sessions]. He used the phrase “auditory space” in describing an experiment by EA. Bott. (…) The phrase was electrifying. Marshall changed it to “acoustic space” and quoted Symbolist poetry. Jackie [Tyrwhitt] mentioned the Indian city of Fatehpur Sikri. Tom saw parallels in medieval Europe. I talked about Eskimos. (…)  Carl [then] sent a paper on “auditory space” to Explorations, minus all [the] seminar dialog [as just noted from McLuhan, Tyrwhitt, Easterbrook and Carpenter]. So Marshall & I put it [back] in. A mistake. Two articles, one on the mechanics of auditory space [by Williams], the other on acoustic “patterning” [by Carpenter and McLuhan] might have been more diplomatic. But we needed some input from Carl, and clearly it wouldn’t come without [our] help. (241)2

Carpenter and Williams plainly did not get along. This had some of its ground in the fact that Williams (a friend of McLuhan since high school) was close to Claude Bissell, who became Principal of Carleton College (UT) in 1956 and President of UT itself in 1958.  Williams followed Bissell as Principal at Carleton and became President of the University of Western Ontario in 1967 after serving in a series of further administrative positions at UT under Bissell.  

Now Bissell and McLuhan had come to the UT English Department together in the same year, 1946, and had established a friendship that lasted until McLuhan’s death. Williams came back to UT a few years later at which time he and McLuhan had been friends for two decades. This somewhat strange relationship with administration power in the persons of Bissell and Williams served McLuhan well over the years, but apparently irked Carpenter. In ‘That Not So Silent Sea’ he mentions a spat over allocation of some of the Culture and Communication Ford Foundation grant: “The head of Anthropology, as always, supported the administration. So did Carl.” (242)

Carpenter’s explanation of why Williams “was invited to join the [seminar] group”, namely that “we needed his bias to balance ours”, is only partly true, at best, since the number of people at UT who could have been approached to counter-balance McLuhan and Carpenter was very large. There must have been something to single Williams out from this multitude. In fact, he was a very old friend3 of McLuhan from Winnipeg and UM (along with Easterbrook).4 This personal background may have been another ground for the animosity between Carpenter and Williams — the two belonged to different, and perhaps competing, groups of McLuhan associates.

Carpenter also gives the impression that Williams was somewhat dim-witted, in need of the “help” of Carpenter and McLuhan to author a short paper. In fact, although Williams (born July 1912) was a year younger than McLuhan, he graduated from UM in Arts (English, Philosophy, Sociology, French) in 1932, a year ahead of McLuhan. He then went to Toronto for his M.A. and PhD in psychology and, before returning to UT in 1949, was head of the UM Psychology Department back in Winnipeg5. And in 1954 he was the President of the Canadian Psychology Association.

Williams was plainly a talented person, but in ways other than those prized by Carpenter. Noteworthy for McLuhan is the fact that he and Williams remained friends for half a century despite the fact that McLuhan shared Carpenter’s depreciative view of administration and management — without, however, considering it the only facet of Williams’ personality and without considering even that facet in Manichean black/white terms. 

  1. For further light on the ‘discovery of ‘acoustic space’ (as McLuhan always called it), see Eisenstein 3 (Balázs). McLuhan and Don Theall had read Balázs’ Theory of the Film which has a section on ‘The Acoustic World’. The exchanges in the seminar concerning ‘auditory space’ must have been mediated, at least for McLuhan and Theall, by Balázs’ discussion.
  2. Carpenter also discussed the same event in his interview on YouTube: “I remember there was one idea that came in. It  was introduced by a psychologist named Williams and he based it on (E.A.) Bott’s research. It was called (auditory) space and Marshall immediately renamed it acoustic space and that somehow liberated the thing and it became an amazing idea. The application in anthropology became to me of primary importance. We suddenly realized that every culture defines a sensory profile and in native cultures for example to maximize sound you will minimize sight, so the dancer is often blinded, deliberately. Or you may find that they will deliberately turn sound into a (tactile) thing so they will plug their ears when they sing. If you begin to examine cultures I think you’ll find that all peoples do this. We go into an art gallery and the sign says, do not touch; a concert goer closes his eyes (to favor hearing); in the library it says, silence; and you’ll find that this will differ markedly from culture to culture. With Jacqueline Tyrwhitt this immediately brought to mind to her a fabled city in India which was in a sense acoustic space, like a Frank Gehry building. And Tom Easterbrook got so interested in this he shifted his research to Africa and the marketplace and so forth. And for Marshall suddenly all kinds of things began to appear in terms of literature.” (‘Edmund Ted Carpenter 2011 —  On Marshall McLuhan and Explorations’, Interview on YouTube, 31:25ff).
  3. In Who was Marshall McLuhan?, Barrington Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan note that: “Carlton Williams (…) was one of Marshall’s close friends” (143). And Williams himself records: “Marshall and Tom Easterbrook were already close friends when we were all undergraduates at the University of Manitoba in the early 1930s.  I came to know both at that time and to value their friendship” (286). In fact, McLuhan and Williams  knew each other already before university since they attended Kelvin High School together (Who’s Who in Canada, Volume 77, 1985, p 962). For images of the Kelvin yearbook showing McLuhan and Williams in their respective rooms, see Richard Altman’s short film ‘Jacqueline Tyrwhitt‘ (0.29ff).
  4. Perhaps this Manitoba mafia regarded the Ford Foundation application as something of a lark? Or even the seminar itself?  See McLuhan to Lewis, March 7, 1955: ” We are spending some Ford Foundation funds by way of studying the new media of communication.” (Letters, 247)
  5. Williams’ wife was from Toronto and may have wanted to return there, perhaps to look after her widowed mother.