Diana Brydon


For several years it seemed as if Marshall McLuhan had come and gone leaving little trace of his influence on Canadian thinking. Now three new books,* two by ex-students of his at the University of Toronto (Powe and Smyth), engage with his ideas to address the same problem — a postliterate world and its implications for writing, reading and thinking. Fawcett and Smyth carry the inquiry one step further, to consider our potential for the destruction of our environment and ourselves, and our potential for creative social change. Powe writes as an uncritical disciple of McLuhan, Fawcett and Smyth as critics, but each writer poses these questions, as put by Powe: 'What happens to thinking, resistance, and dissent when the ground becomes wordless, electric and musical?' (15). In other words, what are the implications of McLuhan's Global Village for the role of the intellectual in contemporary Canada? Each poses this question according to his or her personal concerns. Smyth and Fawcett both ask why people put up with the way things are, suggest that they do because they cannot imagine alternatives, and therefore make it their job to imagine alternatives. Powe, in contrast, appears to be asking how the traditional intellectual (himself) can maintain his authority when the new organisation of his society no longer needs him to legitimate it. His response to this differently formulated dilemma is to re-assert his authority through plugging into a self-defined tradition of maverick authority. Each of these positions comments on the options available to the Canadian writer in response to the intensified marginalisation of a colonised position.



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