On August 3, 1943, Sigfried Giedion wrote his friend John Nef at the University of Chicago (where Nef was one of the founders of the Committee on Social Thought and a close aide to UC President Robert Hutchins) about his meeting with a “promising young scholar” in St Louis that spring: Mr H.M. McLuhan. Giedion wrote Nef (in his somewhat stilted English):
One evening at St Louis I met a young scholar of English literature, Mr H M McLuhan. I had an excellent impression of this young man who seems to live rather isolated at St Louis University. I heard that he made the PhD at Cambridge (England) and that he became there a catholic (as for instance also T.S. Eliot). I did not read any of his articles, but I shall ask him to send me some fragments of his book on English literature, and when they are all right, I shall try and do my best that they will be published by a good publisher. Perhaps Chicago University may invite him once1 for a lecture. (…) I guess, Mr McLuhan would fit into the Chicago environment and I did not find many youngsters of his kind of approach.
The oral recollections of Giedion by Eduard Sekler are interesting in this context:
When I read Space, Time and Architecture at that time it was a revelation. I wrote a glowing review about it. I understand why, for a while, in every architecture school in this country, that was the book that was lying on the drafting board. Giedion was also a fascinating figure personally, and you could learn from him to have a scent for where the new was that was worth pursuing. He had this intuition that was admirable.2
- ‘Once’: presumably Giedion was thinking of German ‘einmal’, which can mean ‘once’, but here should have been ‘sometime’. Eduard Sekler recalled: “I was among the few people who could follow his (Giedion’s) lectures because I could hear the German under his English”. See the next note for the reference. ↩
- Spirit and project : Eduard F. Sekler, Getty Center Art History Oral Documentation Project, 1995. ↩