Vortexes, Spirals, Tetrads: McLuhan’s Hyper-Language as a (Digital) Tool for (Old and New) Storytelling

  • Elena Lamberti Università di Bologna
Keywords: Marshall McLuhan, Mosaic, Modernism, Artistic Avant-Gardes, Hyper-Language


Marshall McLuhan is known mostly as a media guru, now famous also among literary critics exploring the making of new digital forms of storytelling. However, this essay retrieves McLuhan and his mosaic-like form of writing as ‘literary subjects’, by suggesting that the roots of his thought (as well as the roots of all his explorations of media and technological environments) are to be found in his training and role as a Professor of Literature. 

The humanistic tradition that he studied when at Cambridge University, UK, in the 1930s, constitutes in fact the ground that McLuhan cross-pollinated through the experimental achievements of the Modernist writers he loved so much: Joyce, Pound, Lewis, Eliot, Ford offered to McLuhan new heuristics capable to enlighten on ongoing cultural processes. McLuhan’s mosaic is, therefore, a digital form of writing ante-litteram, attracting the new Avant-guard authors and writers of the 1960s: from Harley Parker, to Wilfred Watson to Sorel Etrog. 

McLuhan’s interactive and performative form of writing moves from paratactic verbal ‘probes’ and triggers an active participation from the readers through synesthetic and multi-sensorial dynamics. Reclaiming McLuhan and his mosaic as literary subject contributes to grasp the potential that humanistic research can and must have at a time of great technological and societal change.


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Author Biography

Elena Lamberti, Università di Bologna

Elena Lamberti teaches North American Literature and Media Studies at the University of Bologna, Italy. Her areas of research include: Anglo-American Modernism, Literature and Technology, Cultural Memory, War Literature. She has published several essays on English and Anglo-American Modernism (Ford, Joyce, Pound, Hemingway), as well as Anglo-Canadian culture of the late 20th Century (Coupland, Cronenberg, McLuhan). She is the author of the award winning volume Marshall McLuhan: Tra letteratura, arti e media (Mondadori, 2000); author of “the transatlantic review”: Note sulla rivista che traghettò gli Yankees in Europa (Asterisco, 2012). She has co-edited various volumes including Memories and Representations of War in Europe (with V. Fortunat, Rodopi, 2009). Her volume Marshall McLuhan’s Mosaic. Probing the Literary Origins  of Media Studies (U of T Press, 2012) was a finalist for  the 2013 Canada Prizes. She coordinates the EU/Canada Cultural Project: “PERFORMIGRATIONS: People Are the Territory”.


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How to Cite
Lamberti, E. (1). Vortexes, Spirals, Tetrads: McLuhan’s Hyper-Language as a (Digital) Tool for (Old and New) Storytelling. Between, 4(8). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1362
Theoretical Frameworks: Orality, Media, Digital Memory