Re-reading Marshall McLuhan: Hectic Zen, Rhetoric, & Composition

26Dec11

Figure 8

Rex Veeder, St. Cloud State University
Enculturationhttp://enculturation.net/hectic-zen
(Published: December 20, 2011)

 Introduction Figure 1

Figure 1: All art unless otherwise
indicated by Rex Veeder

Marshall McLuhan deserves to be re-evaluated as a rhetorician because he has described and demonstrated a perspective on rhetoric that remains significant. That perspective involves aesthetic, social, and cultural elements that gravitate around a mythos of (w)holistic understanding: an auditory experience, which is the evolutionary result of electronic media. McLuhan’s explorations, not explanations, are in harmony with rhetorical studies, and he is a sophist. His work resonates with Kenneth Burke’s. Counter Statement and Counter Blast are manifestos for a revolution by evolution through the artistic creation necessary to resist “Mechanization.”

Those who recognize the vitality of counter rhetoric offer us access to them. For example, Jeff Rice’s The Rhetoric of Cool describes a rhetoric resonating with the patterns offered a composer, whether writer or reader, in the hectic environment of juxtaposition, nonlinearity, and imagery—the environment of the mosaic. Byron Hawk’s A Counter History of Composition acknowledges three motives for composition that apply to this environment: oppositional, investigative, and complex. In both cases, the environment and work site for composition becomes a rhetorical space where what is complex is massaged into meaning through the recognition of patterns (relationships) so that the complexity is revealed as more than chance. The mind of a composer in this situation becomes a Zen mind, dedicated to grasping and articulating the whole in moments of discovery amid the clamor of seemingly contradictory information.

Yet, we do not often practice our scholarly work with these things in mind, and depend instead upon the forms and structures of linear composition. What follows is an essay not an explanation, an exploration with argument growing from discoveries along the way. It is a compositional jazz riff, and offers the mosaic as a genre or form appropriate to the auditory universe McLuhan describes. The mosaic, in both visual and literary form, has a long history and is cross-cultural. The essay explores some of that history. Electronic rhetoric can be multi-modal and multi-genred. McLuhan’s interest in counter cultures, the beats and others, offers a warrant for working with art and poetry as one of the ways of exploring the topic.

Read the rest here: http://enculturation.gmu.edu/hectic-zen

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