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McLuhan delivers Keenan Lecture

By Kate O’Gorman


SASKATOON — Dr. Eric McLuhan, author and leader in the field of media and communication, presented the 29th Michael Keenan Memorial Lecture Nov. 2 at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.

The son of the late Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan, Eric McLuhan has continued and expanded on his father’s work. Having authored or co-authored several books on media and communications, Eric McLuhan used his most recent publication, The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia, and the Soul, to speak about how media operate on people’s sensibilities.

Drawing his father’s work into conversation with the Catholic intellectual tradition, Eric McLuhan explained how new media — everything from the telegraph to the Internet — have a transformative effect on humanity and the world.

According to Marshall McLuhan, media are best understood in reference to our senses. As such, a thoughtful consideration of media depends on a deeper understanding of human experience itself.

Building on this idea in reference to the Catholic intellectual tradition, Eric McLuhan argued that we must not only look to the five corporeal senses, but also to the patristic and medieval treatment of the “spiritual senses” explored by theologians such as Henri de Lubac. By retrieving the sacramental tradition of the spiritual senses, Eric McLuhan unpacked how our participation in the new media becomes transformative.

“The new media belong to the world of metaphysics,” said Eric McLuhan. “They entail the transformation of the users.”

According to Sarah Powrie, head of STM’s English Department, “Dr. McLuhan’s work on media and communications is timely and important, and it promises to assist us in making sense of the ways in which the new media shape our society, relationships with one another, and even our own sense of self-identity.”

Celebrating the memory of Michael Keenan, STM’s first dean, who served from 1974 to 1984, the Keenan Lecture is an annual event open to the public. Each year, St. Thomas More College invites a recognized scholar to speak on a range of topics reflective of the various disciplines studied at STM.

Eric McLuhan joins a list of distinguished lecturers which has included Margaret Somerville (2016), founding director emerita of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University in Montreal, and a respected bioethicist who spoke on the issue of legalized euthanasia; Maria Campbell (2015), writer, playwright and teacher, who spoke on “Reconsidering Reconciliation” in the context of Canadians’ ongoing interest in indigenous and non-indigenous relations; and Russell Hittinger (2014), the William K. Warren Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, who spoke on “The Crisis of Modern Times: The Legacy of John Paul II.”

According to Arul Kumaran, the current dean of STM, the Keenan Memorial Lecture is a celebration of St. Thomas More College’s commitment to scholarship and to the intellectual synthesis of faith and reason.


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