Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The formal cause

I stumbled around my draft trying to explain Aristotle's "Formal Cause," McLuhan's use of it, the relevance of the FC to "the medium is the message," and the ways in which McLuhan is not a technological deteminist. I was ready to give up, chuck the whole project, but I kept plugging and I think wrote myself through to some clarity. Great self-check: writing is hard, I have to write to produce good writing, good writing = good thinking, bad writing can lead to good thinking. I have to remember that the project does not have to come out set in stone, although I also worry that the cement I am pouring is so wet and loose it may never set ; )

My writing today didn't really help me finish my Francis Bacon node, but I started a whole Aristotle and Technological Determinist node--probably a good place to start. Better get that issue cleared up right off the bat. I also recognized a number of times how much background information I am assuming, which got me thinking about a first chapter not unlike the first chapter of McLuhan for Managers: a short biography that highlighted key McLuhan publications and MM's specific work with managers, business, consulting, etc. I think a chapter like that might be fun to write and potentially quite useful.

So, here is a question: why did Communication Studies embrace McLuhan (the New Critical literary scholar) but English did not? I don't think Comm folks use Ong much, maybe not even Havelock. Innis a bit--I guess James Carey has addressed this issue a bit. Obvious answer: Understanding Media is about mass media and other things, hardly about literature at all. Gutenberg Galaxy is a great take on the history of rhetoric--I guess English departments weren't much interested in rhetoric at the time, were they?

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