B.W. Powe Explores Apocalypse & Alchemy of Two of Canada’s Greatest Thinkers


Bruce 123.jpg B.W. Powe. September 2010

Like the two-headed Roman god Janus, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye toiled together yet separately, within the same institution, forging new ways to think about emerging technologies, media, culture and literature. They often disagreed. But to York University English Professor B.W. Powe, a student of them both, they represent two sides of the coin of brilliance and he can’t help wonder if they saw that in each other.

Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye book coverFew authors have placed the men side by side as Powe has done in his new book, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (University of Toronto Press). It is here that Powe explores not only their eruptions of conflict – intellectual, academic and personal – but also their similarities, harmonies and lasting influence. He examines the parallels, interweaving and disparateness of their work and personal lives.

“McLuhan and Frye were two teachers who were also visionaries, guides to media awareness and to the deep structure of literature; they were prophetic figures who worked side by side from 1946 until 1980 in the Department of English at the University of Toronto . . . where they made us see reality in different ways and changed our perceptions,” says Powe. “They initiated a highly original Canadian visionary stream, one which highlights media ecology and the identity DNA at the heart of literature.”

McLuhan taught how to engage in the hyper-shifting environments of evolving technologies. “We remake the world through our technologies, and these in turn remake and extend us, in ever spiraling lattices of complexity. McLuhan uncannily foresaw the future, where electronic technology would shape and expand cultures and societies into a global membrane of communications,” says Powe.

Frye, on the other hand, taught how to “look inside the sprawl of seemingly unrelated literary works and see the structures, the codes, that are at play, unifying our vision into one which transforms the consciousness of the reader.” It is through literature that the eternal quest to know “who am I” is explored.

And that sparks the question Powe asks in the book: “What happens if we combine ‘the medium is the message’ with the Great Code?”

Read the rest of this review here http://tinyurl.com/otdwqqk .

Note: The book will be launched on Thursday, Sept. 18, at Founders College, York University Keele campus.

The same review also mentions Bruce’s contributions to another forthcoming publication:-

Before leaving it all behind, however, Powe is performing a literary encore as one of the contributors to the forthcoming book The Medium is the Muse (Channeling Marshall McLuhan (NeoPoiesis Press), edited by Lance Strate and Adeena Karasick, both professors of communication and media studies at Fordham University. Powe’s contribution is a “hallucinatory poem on Steve Jobs called ‘Technogenie.’ ”

The book is a diverse collection that brings together 29 poets, writers and artists who channel McLuhan as both medium and muse. Like McLuhan’s work, this volume promises to delight, divert, provoke, incite and inspire readers to channel McLuhan in their own imagination and creative endeavors. Oracle of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan believed artists could wake us and offer new windows into the world.


One Response to “B.W. Powe Explores Apocalypse & Alchemy of Two of Canada’s Greatest Thinkers”

  1. 1 Media Psychology

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