Saturday, August 26, 2006

From Cliche to Archetype: McLuhan's composition text?

I have actually been telling those who will listen that From Cliche to ARchetype is McLuhan's neglected masterpiece, but perhaps more relevant to us compositionists is the possibility that the book is a kind of composition text, in the philosophical tradition. McLuhan even makes a hint in that direction: "The banishing of the cliche from serious attention was the natural gesture of literary specialists. . . . The writers of composition texts have made much of the cliche as they understand it. They are right in saying that the cliche ought to get great crical attention" (55).

I suspect McLuhan is implying that the composition texts spend a lot of time advising writers to avoid cliches, while McLuhan is in fact suggesting that writers / scholars / artists (because the cliche is not simply verbal) spend a lot of time working with cliches. Cliches, McLuhan argues, are probes, a term he uses often and loosely, but what I think he is getting at is the fact that cliches used unreflectively can reveal all sorts of personal and cultural biases (embedded ways of thinking), while cliches that are carefully and self-consciously retrieved can be powerful means of communication that bring with them rich and evocative histories, having been retrieved from Yeates' "rag and bone shop of the heart."

Okay, so the whole cliche as probe thing needs some refining, but it definitely seems like it has potential for compositionists. McLuhan and his co-author, Wilfred Watson, have laced the text with many other composition tools to be used. For example, they essentially offer up a version of Peter Elbow's "believing and doubting game" and put that into the general set of perceptual tools they call probes. The book as a whole is concerned with the problems / challenges of creativity, which I wrote about a few days agao. This process of retrieval, as I also suggested the other day, is an approach to language and literature that assumes agency and action, rather than study and analysis. The book offers up McLuhan's standard argument that the role of art is to provide an anti-environment through which we can reveal the invisible environments we live in, the water we fish swim in. The chapter on genre is genre ecology and media ecology all roled into one and offers a nice critique of Frye's literary approach to genre. The chapter begins with the subtitle: "Talent rides in a hackneyed vehicle" which seems to me like a beautiful and under-used aphorism in genre studies.

I suppose there is a whole article just on McLuhan as anti-environment for genre studies: why are we just now (36 years later) coming to roughly the same conclusions McLuhan and Watson arrived at in 1970? Not because they were geniuses ahead of their time, I suspect, but because we are living through a long age of interface, a long age of literacy and electracy overlapping, and the transition will be slow, the "progress" meager, the theory hope and claims of radical transformation extravegent.

4 comments:

oakleyses said...

nike free, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet store, tory burch outlet online, coach outlet store online, longchamp handbags, michael kors outlet online sale, polo ralph lauren, michael kors handbags, louis vuitton, prada outlet, ray ban outlet, burberry outlet online, nike air max, coach purses, coach outlet, nike outlet, chanel handbags, true religion outlet, christian louboutin shoes, red bottom shoes, gucci handbags, coach outlet, louis vuitton outlet online, tiffany and co jewelry, michael kors outlet online, oakley vault, cheap oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton handbags, nike air max, prada handbags, true religion, louis vuitton outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet, tiffany jewelry, kate spade outlet, burberry outlet online, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, christian louboutin, kate spade outlet online, longchamp outlet online, michael kors outlet

oakleyses said...

air max pas cher, hollister, longchamp pas cher, converse pas cher, ralph lauren, nike air max, air jordan, sac vanessa bruno, abercrombie and fitch, scarpe hogan, sac michael kors, louis vuitton uk, michael kors canada, new balance pas cher, ray ban pas cher, nike roshe, hermes pas cher, true religion outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, tn pas cher, nike free, vans pas cher, north face, nike roshe run, nike air force, nike air max, hollister, sac louis vuitton, burberry pas cher, oakley pas cher, michael kors uk, ray ban uk, mulberry uk, north face pas cher, chaussure louboutin, guess pas cher, louis vuitton, nike blazer pas cher, air max, barbour, lululemon outlet online, lacoste pas cher, timberland, longchamp, louis vuitton pas cher, true religion jeans, nike free pas cher

oakleyses said...

bottega veneta, ugg boots clearance, north face jackets, herve leger, wedding dresses, insanity workout, jimmy choo shoes, soccer jerseys, ugg outlet, mcm handbags, beats headphones, canada goose outlet, chi flat iron, ferragamo shoes, ghd, ugg, canada goose outlet, uggs outlet, asics shoes, giuseppe zanotti, nike trainers, longchamp, soccer shoes, vans outlet, p90x workout, valentino shoes, north face jackets, mac cosmetics, mont blanc pens, nike huarache, babyliss, abercrombie and fitch, replica watches, uggs on sale, celine handbags, new balance outlet, reebok shoes, canada goose outlet, nike roshe, marc jacobs outlet, ugg boots, hollister, ugg outlet, birkin bag, canada goose, lululemon outlet, ugg soldes, instyler ionic styler, nfl jerseys

oakleyses said...

iphone 6 case, timberland shoes, louis vuitton canada, nike air max, moncler outlet, toms outlet, hollister, air max, moncler, canada goose, pandora charms, pandora uk, hollister canada, oakley, louboutin, converse, ralph lauren, wedding dress, ray ban, swarovski jewelry, baseball bats, parajumpers outlet, pandora jewelry, canada goose, gucci, moncler, thomas sabo uk, ugg, montre femme, canada goose pas cher, vans, uggs canada, swarovski uk, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, lancel, converse shoes, hollister clothing, coach outlet, links of london uk, moncler outlet, replica watches, karen millen, moncler, supra shoes, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler