Bio statement from 1944

In 1944 McLuhan began to publish in Sewanee Review1 and Kenyon Review.2 Both were edited by close friends of McLuhan’s close friend, Cleanth Brooks — Andrew Lyttle at Sewanee and John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon — and it is probable that McLuhan gained entry to these journals through Brooks. In fact, Brooks was himself an ‘associate editor’ with Sewanee at this time. 

McLuhan’s second Sewanee piece, ‘Poetic vs Rhetorical Exegesis’, featured the following biographical statement:

H.M. McLuhan teaches at St Louis University,3 worked for three years in Cambridge,4 part of this time with Richards and Leavis.5 He is a former contributor to Sewanee Review.  

The last sentence is rather comical since McLuhan’s ‘former’ contribution to the Sewanee Review had appeared only in the immediately previous number. The importance of this connection with the Sewanee Review for McLuhan lay in the facts that it paid for contributions and added weight to his CV at a time when he was searching for a more lucrative position than he had at SLU. Both reflected McLuhan’s virtually penniless state in 1944 when his wife was pregnant for the second time with what would turn out later that year to be twin girls.6

  1. ‘Edgar Poe’s Tradition’, Sewanee Review, 52:1, 1944; ‘Poetic vs Rhetorical Exegesis’, Sewanee Review, 52:2, 1944; ‘Kipling and Forster’, Sewanee Review, 52:3, 1944.
  2. ‘The Analogical Mirrors’, Kenyon Review, 6:3, 1944.
  3. When this issue of Sewanee Review appeared in the spring of 1944, McLuhan was in the process of leaving SLU for Assumption College in Windsor where he taught from 1944 to 1946. Father Gerald Phelan had set up McLuhan’s job at SLU (as he had done for many Canadians) and was now, it may be supposed, behind the step by step process of bringing McLuhan to Toronto via Windsor.
  4. McLuhan was in Cambridge from 1934 to 1936 as an undergraduate and 1939-1940 as a graduate student.
  5. Describing the time he and McLuhan were working together a few years later, Hugh Kenner wrote in his 1985 ‘Preface’ to the reprinting of The Poetry of Ezra Pound from 1951 that “Marshall, at that time (was) pretty much a New Critic”.
  6. In January 1951 McLuhan wrote to the then editor of the Sewanee Review, John Palmer, complaining that he had to publish elsewhere because his work was not appearing often enough at Sewanee. “Trouble is, he (the other editor) don’t pay, and it’s quite a problem finding hamburger for our five kids these days.” (Between 1944 and 1951 the McLuhans had  two more girls after the twins and their older brother, Eric.) If Palmer didn’t much like McLuhan’s work, despite Brooks’ prompting, perhaps he would be more sympathetic to it in consideration of his hungry children?