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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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Chapter 1: Symbolism as parataxis: McLuhan and the social function of writing

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CHAPTER 1

Symbolism as parataxis: McLuhan and the social function of writing

ABSTRACT

The creative process at the root of symbolism is foregrounded in this chapter. As the perceptive powers of individuals change, their visual and interpretative faculties increase: as a result, they open a ‘total and diversified’ experiential horizon. McLuhan defines it as ‘a collocation, a parataxis of components representing insight by carefully established ratios, but without a point of view or lineal connection or sequential order’ (McLuhan 1962: 302). The evolution of journalistic techniques demonstrates the search for an informative polycentrism to convey a global vision of the events that mark social systems. Thanks to symbolism, the sensorial complexity of modern individuals becomes popular for its unexpected polysemy, magnified by myths and meanings connected to the construction of individual and collective identities. The result is the definition of new and unexpected semantic scenarios.

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