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McLuhan and Symbolist Communication

The Shock of Dislocation

Series:

Andrea Lombardinilo

With an interview with Derrick de Kerckhove.

Symbolism as a parataxis, as a «jazz of the intellect»: this is the starting point of this research, inspired by a socio-literary interpretation of Marshall McLuhan’s mediology and developed from a diachronic and exegetic perspective. According to the Canadian sociologist, the footsteps that led to this electric era can be traced through the study of certain writers and poets, whose symbolism provides a number of sociological hints foreshadowing our media modernity. This book aims to investigate the role of symbolism in McLuhan’s sociological research, by outlining how the study of memory and the analysis of literary tradition are fundamental to understanding the complex development of communication and cultural studies. The research presented here focuses on the function of symbols as interpretative keys for the study of media carried out by McLuhan. It is exactly in this artistic movement that the sociologist finds the opportunity to analyse the representative practices (irrational and linear) of modern men, shaped by the reticular patterns of the mind. From this perspective, McLuhan identifies the creative process that lies at the root of symbolist poetry, identified as «a disposition, a parataxis, of components that draws a particular intuition through precise links, but without a point of view, that is a linear connection or sequential order».

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Conclusion: Communication as a social probe

Extract



ABSTRACT

The conclusion briefly recapitulates the major points covered in the previous chapters and stresses McLuhan’s conviction of the need to enhance his diachronic approach to media, in order to understand the origins of contemporary communication. This is what he claims in his best-regarded works and critical essays. In ‘Printing and Social Change’ (1959) he anticipates some of the main themes of The Gutenberg Galaxy, pivoted on the transition from the oral to the written era. Symbolist poets, as well as Catholic humanists and mass media sociologists, have the task to explore the interior landscape of human minds and the hidden contradictions of conscience. The unseizable analogies of the public sphere cannot help but attract the attention of poets aspiring to depict the mosaic structure of the mind.

At the end of this journey through the literary origins of McLuhan’s mediology, it may be worth noticing how close the connection between communication and art is, to the extent that every interactional act may be conceived as a reversal and a recomposition of emotions, perceptions, expectations. Since communication has always been prompted by the need to convey the meaning of the contingent complexity of daily existence, many writers and poets took advantage of the oppurtunity to define their personal creative language, inevitably inherent to their social, cultural and economic environment.

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