For those deep in media study, the Coach House has always been a place of force. On October 20th, 2015, the McLuhans and Mcluhanists gathered in the Coach House, at the University of Toronto, to revitalize the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology for the 21st century.
This name was initially used just on “a card pinned to the door of Marshall McLuhan’s office in the English Department”, back in 1963, as Wikipedia witnesses. Here is a brief history of the Centre for Culture and Technology, better known as the Coach House:
“In the early 1950s, McLuhan began the Communication and Culture seminars, funded by the Ford Foundation, at the University of Toronto. As his reputation grew, he received a growing number of offers from other universities and, to keep him, the university created the Centre for Culture and Technology in 1963… McLuhan remained at the University of Toronto through 1979, spending much of this time as head of his Centre for Culture and Technology…”
“It then had no organized program for research or teaching, but gained in prestige from the world-wide popularity of Understanding Media (1964) and grew in McLuhan’s last decade in Toronto, assisted by Derrick de Kerckhove and McLuhan’s son Eric, who became a director of the McLuhan Program International. In 1994, the McLuhan Program became a part of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. The program’s curriculum is based on the works of Marshall McLuhan and other media theorists. In 2009, the Faculty of Information launched the Coach House Institute (CHI) as a clearly defined research unit under which the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology now operates.”
So, for now, this article of Wikipedia has become obsolete. This October, the Coach House got back its historical title: the Centre for Culture and Technology (not the McLuhan Program anymore).
Yes, when I was there this June, the Coach House still had its old sign.
But now the Coach House has a new sign with the old name.
Michael McLuhan tells stories about this house. In particular, he mentions famous people who visited this place in the 70s, including Pierre Trudeau, the then Prime Minister of Canada. “Was he a Liberal?” – asks Michael ironically. “Many of them are Liberals,” responds Robert K. Logan* (in a brown coat), professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and co-author of Marshall McLuhan.
Here is the background of the story. October 20th was the day right after election day 2015, when the Liberals won the Parliament majority and Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister designate, ready to return to under his paternal roof, at the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa, where he was born and spent the first years of his life in the early 70s.
Alex Kuskis, Adjunct Professor of Communication at the Gonzaga University,
who was awarded by the Media Ecology Association for his blog McLuhan Galaxy,
is telling the congregation about the significance of McLuhan’s legacy,
and greeting the revitalization of McLuhan’s program.
Eric McLuhan, a son and coauthor of MM, and his son Andrew (close to the door),
who helps him to read and organize Marshall’s archives, have come.
Eric recalls his father being asked, in this room, “How to study media?” “Study language,” was Marshall McLuhan’s answer.
What could be a more appealing subject for a picture than ourselves? Here we are, stunning in McLuhan’s “zombie trance of Narcissus narcosis”… though, it’s still enjoyable, at least for me. So, no chance to avoid a selfie.
With Andrew McLuhan, Paolo Granata, and Rita Leistner,
the author of a fantastic book, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan.
By the way, Eric McLuhan is launching his latest book ‘The Sensus Communis, Synesthesia and the Soul: an Odyssey‘ at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology Friday, November 6th at 7pm. All are welcome to attend.
And here is my favourite picture from that party.
While Canada is celebrating the Liberals’ victory and greeting the next Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Dr. Logan tells the famous story about McLuhan inviting Trudeau Sr., the then Prime Minister (the late 70s), to attend McLuhan’s seminar at the Coach House, which was conducted at the time by Dr. Logan. McLuhan wanted to astonish participants with such a prominent guest. But he himself was surprised when the Prime Minister came to the room and said to Dr. Logan, “Hi Bob, how are you?”
They happened to be familiar, since Dr. Logan had been one of Pierre Trudeau’s policy advisors.
Here on the picture, Dr. Logan is showing how Pierre Trudeau was entering the very same room through the very same door, while Andrew McLuhan, behind, photobombs.
Below is the story, as told by Robert Logan himself in his book McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight.
“Let me relay one example in which he wanted to play a trick on his students. One day not long after I began working with him, Marshall asked me to host his weekly Monday-night seminar. He told me he was having dinner with Prime Minister Trudeau and he wanted to bring the PM to the seminar and surprise the group, so I was to say nothing about this. I kept my word. When I heard the motorcycles accompanying the PM approach the coach house where we held our seminar, I, and I alone in that room, knew what was about to happen. McLuhan strode into the room and exclaimed, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Prime Minister of Canada.’ Mr. Trudeau came into the room looked around to greet everyone, spotted me, and said, “Bob, hi! How are you?” Marshall’s jaw dropped, for he did not know that I was one of Trudeau’s policy advisors; I had never gotten around to telling him about my work in politics. He enjoyed the trick he played on the seminar group, and I enjoyed the one I played on him.”
Logan, Robert (2013-10-16). McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight (Kindle Locations 700-705). The Key Publishing House Inc.. Kindle Edition)
On my way back home, miles away from Toronto, later that night, I met Eric and Andrew McLuhan once again, and had another 15 minutes of memorable conversation.
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