Explorations: Studies in Culture & Communication (1953-57)

26Mar14

 Explorations 4 (Feb, 1955)

Issue Four (April, 1954) of the tri-annual periodical edited by Edmund Carpenter. Associate editor Marshall McLuhan and others. Contributions by Dorothy Lee, D.C. Williams, Jorge Luis Borges, e.e. Cummings, Joan Rayfield, Marjorie Adix, Millar McLure, Marshall McLuhan, Lawrence K. Frank, Stephen Gilman, Northrop Frye, Walter J. Ong, Edmund Carpenter, Francis Golffing, J. Tyrwhitt, J. Paul & J. Ogilvie and Robert G. Armstrong.

THE “UNKNOWN” EXPLORATIONS   –   by Gary Genosko

Introduction

Much has been written about Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication (1953-59), the journal founded by Marshall McLuhan and edited by Edmund Carpenter (with a small associate editorial team consisting of McLuhan, W.T. Easterbrook, J. Tyrwhitt and D.C. Williams). The famous run of 9 “ended” with the McLuhan-less “Eskimo” issue (not the last issue of the journal, but simply the end of the original run) that drew upon images and art from filmmaker Robert Flaherty and drawings by artist Frederick Varley. The 1959 issue sans McLuhan was followed by the selection, published the following year by Beacon, and jointly edited by McLuhan and Carpenter, as Explorations in Communication (1960). The first 8 issues are considered by some McLuhan experts to be definitive. Bob Dobbs (2005: 86), for instance, seems to think the Explorations experiment “ran its course until 1957 […] obsolesced by Sputnik on October 4, 1957.” [1] Yet for every obsolescence there are, of course, other laws of media simultaneously at work.

Issue 9 published in 1959 marked a pause in the journal’s trajectory and was quite unlike the earlier issues in appearance, size and design, with none of Harley Parker’s design nuances, inserts, and typographic flair. The halcyon days of Explorations had ended as the original funding from the Ford Foundation seminar on Culture and Communication (1953-55) ran out and the Toronto Telegram’s brief sponsorship, courtesy of publisher John Bassett, of issues 7 and 8 in 1957, evaporated. McLuhan refers in passing to Eskimo as the “last issue of Explorations” in a 1969 letter to television talk-show host Jack Paar; [2] this letter was written after the Explorations resumed publishing. The original Explorations of the 1950s carries in some instances an incredible intellectual weight, as Philip Marchand insists in describing McLuhan’s final appearance in the journal’s pages:

McLuhan’s final appearance in Explorations, in the October 1957 issue, really caps the intellectual process he had made since the periodical had been launched […] Everything McLuhan said or wrote afterward is directly traceable to something he wrote in the first eight issues of Explorations. (Read the rest of this article at http://tinyurl.com/a65frza ).

*****

Issue Two (April, 1954) of the tri-annual periodical edited by Edmund Carpenter. Associate editor Marshall McLuhan and others. Contributions by Marshall McLuhan, Edmund Carpenter, D.S. Savage, Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Dorothy Lee, Donald Theall, Lord Raglan, David Riesman, Stanley Edgar Hyman, and A. Irving Hallowell. “Explorations is designed, not as a permanent reference journal that embalms truth for posterity, but as a publication that explores and searches and questions. We envisage a series that will cut across the humanities and social sciences by treating them as a continuum. We believe anthropology and communication are approaches, not bodies of data, and that within each the four winds of humanities, the physical, the biological and the social sciences intermingle to form a science of man.” — editors’ statement.
Issue Three (August 1954) of the tri-annual periodical edited by Edmund Carpenter. Associate editor Marshall McLuhan and others. Contributions by H.J. Chaytor, Kamo Chomei, Ray Birdwhistell, Martha Wolfenstein, Dorothy Lee, Kenneth MacLean, D.C. Williams, I. Potekin, M. Lewin, H. A. Innis, W.H. McCulloch, Marshall McLuhan, Anthony F.C. Wallace, G.L. Trager, and E.T. Hall.

Issue Five (June 1955) of the tri-annual periodical edited by Edmund Carpenter. Associate editor Marshall McLuhan and others. Contributions by Marshall McLuhan, Edmund Carpenter, Daisetz T. Suzuki, W.R. Rodgers, E.R. Rodgers, E.R. Leach, Rhoda Métraux, Roy Campbell, Claire Holt, Joan Rayfield, D. Lerner, D. Riesman, J. Tyrwhitt, D. Williams, Kenneth Boulding, W.T. Easterbrook, Jean Piaget, and Harcourt Brown. (Source: http://tinyurl.com/lx9ju85 )

 Edmund (“Ted”) Carpenter

Availability of the Explorations journals: They are of course available in major university libraries. Used copies occasionally appear for sale on eBay and at ABE.com, where I acquired my copies. Still, new copies of Explorations 8, the Exploration in Communication anthology, plus later Explorations inserts into the University of Toronto Graduate journal are available from The McLuhan Bookshop at http://ericmcluhan.com/bookshop/ .

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