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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 8: ‘The reasoning Spectre’: William Blake and the symbolic vision

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CHAPTER 8

‘The reasoning Spectre’: William Blake and the symbolic vision

ABSTRACT

William Blake, too, is included by McLuhan in the gallery of eminent poets who in some way molded our modernity. His visionary ‘cipher’ is essential to find out what lies behind reality. His cryptic language, similar to that used by secret societies, habitually uses symbols and metaphors. In this regard, the study of Dante provides Blake with a number of iconographic and mythical cues, outstandingly suitable in order to build his dream symbolism inspired by biblical and esoteric sources alike. The nexus between images and words is probably the main trademark of Blake’s art. It is not by chance that the final chapter of The Gutenberg Galaxy begins with some cues taken from Blake’s poem Jerusalem. The Emanation of the Giant Albion: in his sulphureous, magmatic poem, Blake fully expresses his symbolic conception of reality, marked by his self-constructed mythology. A visionary force that does not spare any aspect of human existence inspires his poetry, as repeatedly remarked by McLuhan in his critical essays.

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