Marchessault re-examines McLuhan in Cosmic Media

Canada’s renowned culture commentator Marshall McLuhan will be feted anew Thursday as York Professor Janine Marchessault launches her latest book, Cosmic Media. The launch and reception take place on Thursday, Jan. 20, from 7 to 10pm at the Prefix Institute for Contemporary Art, 401 Richmond St. West, Suite 124. Cocktails will be served until the 9pm screening of Richard Kerr’s film McLuhan. Kerr will be in attendance at the event, which is sponsored by the York University Bookstore, the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, the Faculty of Fine Arts, and Sage Publications.

About the Book

book cover“Feted and reviled in his own lifetime, Marshall McLuhan has made a dramatic comeback in recent years. Marchessault gives a balanced and carefully considered appraisal of McLuhan’s contribution to cultural theory, which may be even more pertinent now, in the early twenty-first century, than when he originally formulated it in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Jim McGuigan,Professor of Cultural Studies,University of Loughborough

Marshall McLuhan’s theories of media, art and culture are being reexamined in the context of new digital cultures and globalization. This book provides a close reading of some of his key texts to discern the contribution his thinking can make to our understanding of the present condition of convergent and yet unstable media cultures. Across McLuhan’s wide-ranging writings on the media, the author argues that his central contribution to communication and cultural studies does not consist in any one theoretical insight. Rather, McLuhan’s writings over a 40-year period from the 1940s to his death in 1980 are consistently concerned with understanding the contemporary media as a problem of method. The key to any analysis of the media, always for McLuhan connected to the spaces and temporalities of the lifeworld, is a reflexive field approach. Oriented around the archival, encyclopedic, and artifactual surfaces but also “haptic harmonies” and ruptures, this method draws out patterns that render ground assumptions and matrices discernible. This was encapsulated in his most famous neologism, “the medium is message” and this is perhaps why McLuhan had a greater influence on artists than on academics.

Cosmic Media sees McLuhan a creative researcher and an interdisciplinary thinker who is deeply connected to the Romantic tradition. McLuhan does not make art so much as he recognizes the value of art as a means to discern the production of mediated forms of consciousness. We should bear in mind that McLuhan never claimed to be anything more than “a student” immersed in the new interdisciplinary field of Media Studies that his work helped to inaugurate.

marchessaultIllustrated with many examples from the network society, the book will serve as a guide to anyone who wants to know why McLuhan’s work remains vital, particularly in relation to the study of new media and its environment.

About the Author

Janine Marchessault, right, is a Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York. She is director of the Visible City Project and Archive, which is examining creative industries and artists’ cultures across several cities. A past president of the Film Studies Association of Canada, Marchessault has published widely on film and digital media technologies and has been the editor of several anthologies, including Mirror Machine: Video and Identity (YYZ: 1995); Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women Filmmakers (UTP: 1999); Wild Science: Reading Feminism, Science and the Media (Routledge: 2000); as well as the forthcoming book “Fluid Screens”.

Everyone is welcome. If you wish to attend, please send your RSVP to Michael Legris, marketing and special events coordinator, York University Bookstore, at ext. 22078 or