Black and white photograph of a young Marshall McLuhan with a think mustache.

Marshall McLuhan

(1911 - 1980)

Marshall McLuhan wrote at age twenty that he would never become an academic; he went on to obtain a BA, an MA, a PhD, and teaching positions at four universities. Serving as an English professor at the University of Toronto, McLuhan in 1962 published The Gutenberg Galaxy, which popularized the term global village. Two years later he published Understanding Media, which begins, “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”

All Writing

Money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber.

—Marshall McLuhan, 1964

Jokes are grievances.

—Marshall McLuhan, 1969

“Work” does not exist in a nonliterate world. The primitive hunter or fisherman did no work, any more than does the poet, painter, or thinker of today. Where the whole man is involved there is no work.

—Marshall McLuhan, 1964


“We don’t like their sound,” an executive at Decca Records said in 1962, rejecting The Beatles, adding, “and guitar music is on the way out.” The same year, Marshall McLuhan wrote, “The book is dead. That is to say sometime before the end of the present century, the last printed book will roll off the presses.”


“But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It speaks, and yet says nothing.” An apt description of TV, Marshall McLuhan said, when he quoted Shakespeare in Understanding Media. Romeo’s line is in fact “She speaks, yet she says nothing,” and refers to Juliet, who is likened to light—and it actually occurs in the play ten lines after the first.

Issues Contributed