InSounds: An On-Line Oral History of Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan’s writings have shaped the way we look at media today. He was, foremost, a literary man, but was often criticized for undermining the authority of the book. McLuhan continued the work of his predecessors at the University of Toronto – men like Harold Innis and Eric Arthur Havelock – who sought to understand the complex relationship between the oral tradition and literary culture. This fundamental dichotomy provided a strong basis for many of McLuhan’s contributions to the fields of Communications and Media Studies.

In the true spirit of the Toronto School of Communications, the InSounds bring the oral tradition to the Internet. The speakers, unconstrained by punctuation and the conventions of scholarly writing, express themselves through intonation, cadence, and unbroken thought. These resources, drawn from the collections of Dr. Liss Jeffrey and Prof. Derrick de Kerckhove at the University of Toronto, feature a series of interviews with friends, associates, colleagues, and critics of McLuhan. Bruce Powe examines the relationship between McLuhan’s work and that of his French and English contemporaries in Literature. Corinne McLuhan shares personal anecdotes and insights into her husband’s personal and professional life. Claude T. Bissell, former President of the University of Toronto, discusses the origins of the Centre for Culture and Technology, the early days of Explorations magazine series, and his personal encounters with McLuhan.

InSounds, in the true McLuhanist sense of the term, a visual resource. The ear, unhindered by the eye, is free to make its own visual associations. Tom Wolf’s gestures to the interviewer are clear. One can picture Tony Schwartz moving around the room to illustrate his point about the relationship between sound and space. The phrase “you see” trails every point made by BBC dramatist Martin Esslin – a man who worked primarily in radio for forty years. By ‘seeing’ what the speakers mean, we are given a glimpse into the visions and insights of Marshall McLuhan.

Enjoy the selection of material that is currently available. We hope that you will contribute to this project by sharing with us your own encounters with McLuhan, his writing, and his thought.

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