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The Gutenberg Galaxy:
Movable type, as much if not more than any meaningful arrangement of that type, transformed Renaissance consciousness--just as electronic circuitry is transforming us now. That is the basic premise of Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy. New technologies create new human environments, and "technological environments are not merely passive containers & but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike." McLuhan's second book, The Gutenberg Galaxy was published in 1962, won the Canadian Governor General's Medal that same year, and pushed McLuhan toward international prominence. Like most of McLuhans's other work--Understanding Media or The Global Village, for example--The Gutenberg Galaxy is a rich, dense text that draws freely, almost frantically, from works of philosophy, economics, political theory, history, and especially literature. There are liberal doses of Shakespeare--text and commentary--sprinkled throughout, as well as trenchant appropriations from Rabelais, Cervantes, Leibnitz, Blake, Joyce, and many others. Attempting to match his medium to his metaphors, McLuhan structures his book using what he calls "a mosaic or field approach" and ends up producing more than 100 short sections separated by pithy glosses in large bold type, such as "Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy," or " Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society." Today's reader might find the "mosaic of perpetually interacting forms" into which the author organizes his data and quotations distinctly Web-like. Indeed, one could say of McLuhan and his complex rhetorical circuitry what McLuhan himself says about Shakespeare: "His insights appear so richly in his lines that it is very difficult to select among them." --Russell Prather [via]