A Sampler of McLuhan Quotes Related to “Masks,” From Bill Kuhns’ Forthcoming McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations


In anticipation of Bill Kuhns’ to-be-published huge compendium of McLuhan quotes in his McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations, where they will be categorized by the artifact or phenomenon they refer to, I have Bill’s permission to publish samples of original McLuhan quotes from his writings, lectures, and interviews, some of which will have never before been seen in a secondary publication context.

Italian Commedia Dell’ Arte Masks

“The small demi-mask worn by the participant in a masquerade is a “put on” of  the group.”
The Medium & the Light: Reflections on Religion (1999), p. 75.

“A Catholic priest, in this regard, possesses no more power or mystery than  a  Protestant  padre. “Putting on” only the congregation as his corporate mask of dignity deprives the celebrant of any compelling power or charisma; and this fact is not lost on the young adults who, naturally, can think of no reason for seeking divine absolution nor for pursuing a merely banal vocation of a humanistic padre.”
The Medium & the Light: Reflections on Religion (1999), p. 135.

“Dullness is the only form which makes power acceptable or tolerable – a fact which accounts for the solemn masks worn by top executives and their imitators.”
– Why the CBC Must Be Dull (1957). p. 12.

“In our time the spectacular failures of communication are nowhere more evident  than in the weird masks which the literate public slaps over the countenance of new work.”
“Mr. Eliot has been compelled to wear a series of such masks since 1922. Yeats was allowed to wear his own mask on condition that he never showed his face except to  his friends. And the Yeats mask was an explicit recognition of the inability of the  public to look at poetry except when conventionally disguised.”
-The Poetry of Ezra Pound (Book Review), Renascence (1952), p. 216.

“Anybody can prove this simply by cutting one out of a magazine and studying it, or  by stopping and looking carefully at one. Soon he will begin to smile. Then to laugh. Ads are like the weird faces or masks used by witch-doctors to control the powers of  nature. If one is merged in the tribal horde, that mask will look good to him. It may decide whether he will eat next year. To the outsider the same magical layout will seem comical.”
– The Age of Advertising, Commonweal (1953), p. 557.

“The artist puts on the new environment as a mask or image of power enabling us to  discern it  lineaments.”
“The satellite surround is the new artistic mask worn by the earth itself .”
– Innovation is Obsolete, Evergreen (1971), p. 48.

“The idea of putting on masks, power, energy, corporate masks, is a very large  subject and clothing as language is one that I’m sure – well, we have an actor here  could tell us a good deal about it. I should like to hear Mr. MacGowran’s views on the  interpretative powers of costume.”
– Theatre and the Visual Arts: A Panel Discussion (1972), p. 128.

“The story of Pierre Trudeau is the story of the Man in the Mask. That is why he came into his own with TV.”
“He is as tribal as the Beatles. His image is as corporate and mask-like as a member of a Mozart dance group and as earthy and casual as an American Negro.”

“On color TV any Negro is the superior of any white man. His corporate mask, integral and iconic, is suited to the iconoscope and dissolves the adjacent white image into insignificance.”
-Federalism and the French-Canadians, New York Times (1968), p. BR36.

“Clothes are not worn merely to keep us warm and to protect our bodies. They are also worn to ”speak,” in the sense that theatrical costumes speak. All media, moreover, are weapons, as well as masks of power that are “put on,” so to speak.”
– Technology and the Human Dimension, The Antigonish Review, (1968), p. 21.

“There is a sense in which a magazine is a vortex of energy, a mask which the reader puts on in order to perceive a field of action that would otherwise be outside his ken. If a reader must put on a magazine as a mask or a pattern of energy in order to organize his perceptions, the contributors must also put on the public created by the magazine, creating a reciprocal and complementary action.”
– Roles, Masks and Performances, New Literary History, 2(3), Performances in Drama, the Arts, and Society (Spring, 1971), pp. 517-531.

“As the masks of entire cultures are brought into play we may discover again what it means to lose face” or identity itself.”
– Roles, Masks and Performances, pp. 7-8.

“The nude is in role. The naked person is like Lear, someone who has been dressed down and stripped of his role. The strip-teaser takes off her clothes in order to put on her audience. On stage she may be nude, but the moment she steps backstage she is naked. The audience is her mask.”
– Roles, Masks and Performances, p. 17.

“When Sokol refers to the trials of the McCarthy era, it is well to keep in mind that the public was putting on a totally new kind of mask, TV, just as the Elizabethan public began to look at the world through the mask of the printed page.”
– Roles, Masks and Performances, p. 21.

And, there will be many more quotes that mention masks in McLuhan Marshalling Machine: A Dictionary of Quotations.

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