Autobiography – beginning to teach in 1936

In 1960, McLuhan looked back a quarter century to his first years teaching at the University of Wisconsin (1936-1937) and St Louis University (1937-1944):

When I began to teach Freshman rhetoric in 1936 the “new criticism” had not yet begun to be current in colleges. Nor had there yet begun that full study of ancient rhetoric as a means of understanding Renaissance literature. Moreover, the application of anthropological method to the appreciation of the multi-levelled riches of popular culture had not yet come into vogue. From the first, I used all three of these approaches to freshman English, and further, found the Basic English of Ogden and Richards a wonderful aid. To these I would add to-day an introduction to the “languages” of the various media of writing,  typing, print, photography, film, radio, and television. For these tongues of the media, whether touched with mechanism or electronic fire, serve to reshape the patterns of discourse, and constitute a large portion of our “meaning.” What is shared by the “new criticism,” by traditional rhetoric, popular culture, and by study of the languages and grammars of the media, is the habit of reading and writing in depth. Depth analysis ended with printing and has returned in the past century, which may become known as the electric or electronic age. 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’, Communication in General Education, ed Frances Shoemaker and Louis Forsdale, 17-27, 1960)