Introducing Bill Kuhns, Prolific Author & Independent McLuhan Scholar

29Jul20
Bill Kuhns

Bill Kuhns is already known to some in the McLuhan community of interest from his book, The Post-Industrial Prophets (1971), which contains a chapter on McLuhan, and the “assembly” he did with Eric McLuhan in 2003, The Book of Probes. As an independent McLuhan scholar, he has been circling McLuhan in ever tighter-circles, all his life. He has been well-connected in the McLuhan community and the McLuhan family and was good friends with John Culkin and Walter Ong, who helped him get a Guggenheim Fellowship. He of course also knew Marshall McLuhan.

I will quote Bill myself from his reply to a query I sent him requesting information about his background. Besides his writing he was also a teacher as he explained one of his teaching experiences in reply:

“When I taught at Fordham [University] in the summer of 1967, I taught a class that John Culkin advertised he would give. I was such a young thing then. Had to be most disarming to handle the disappointed nuns, priests, and teachers [who] came from round the country  taking a summer class in “Film Studies in the High School Classroom,” by John Culkin, SJ. I had just finished cobbling together a textbook, Exploring the Film, and pretty much taught what was in that book. I was replaced at the end of summer by a literary professor from Toronto named McLuhan. He taught a much large gathering of students than I did. And he taught much better stuff. Much more original stuff”. 

In 1986 Corinne McLuhan asked him to write the authorized biography. Bill spent endless days and hours in the reading room of the National Archive in Ottawa, poring over diaries, letters, published and unpublished articles and interviews. He saved the best passages he found, as he explained for himself:

“What I learned reading through all the letters and short pieces in the Archive, however, was that the writings and speeches were full of nuggets and I began a grand database of those nuggets. I called it, from the start, “The McLuhan Marshalling Machine,” 

Some of these became the source of The Book of Probes (2003), which he in collaboration with Eric McLuhan published with Gingko Press (see http://gingkopress.com/marshall-mcluhan/ ). Unfortunately for Bill, the authorship of the authorized biography for various reasons went to W. Terrence Gordon.

Current Scholarship
Bill is currently completing two McLuhan books …. one, an elaborate and more comprehensive sequel to The Book of Probes, titled what he had called his database of quotes from the start, The McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations – completing that with the help Bob Logan. And he has finally written the biography he was not permitted to complete 30 years ago, now completed as a large graphic novel, called The Bio-GRAPHIC Marshall McLuhan. Right now, Bill is looking for a graphic artist worthy of the subject to illustrate it. If anyone knows such an individual, please contact me. For The Book of Probes, see https://tinyurl.com/yx9c2rq4.

He is also working on a film for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) that in his words “rubs the best of McLuhan against the best and worst of our media today.” Bill has published 16 books, both fiction and non-fiction, 14 of which you can see listed on Goodreads.com, including Exploring Television (1971), Exploring The Film (1972), Movies in America (1973), plus the titles mentioned above.



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