Saturday, February 19, 2005

Eco pontificates on McLuhan 

Is it scientifically productive to read McLuhan? An embarrassing problem, because you have to take care not to liquidate in the name of academic common sense someone who writes the Canticle of Sister Electricity. How much fertility is concealed behind this perpetual intellectual erection?

The popular success of his thought is due to this very technique of nondefinition of terms and to that cogito-interruptus logic that has given such cheap celebrity also to the Apocalyptics...In this sence McLuhan is right: Gutenbergian man is dead, and the reader seeks in the book a message at low definition, in which to find hallucinatory immersion. At this point isn't it better to watch television?

That television is better than Sedlmayr is beyond any doubt. With McLuhan, things are different. Even when they are merchandised in a jumble, good and bad together, ideas summon other ideas, if only to be refuted. Read McLuhan; but then try to tell your friends what he says. Then you will be forced to choose a sequence, and you will emerge from the hallucination.

From Umberto Eco's 1967 essay "Cogito Interruptus"

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