. Abstract
. Mcluhan's literary formation
. Beyond the traditional account of metaphor
. Moving environments
. Bibliography

Mcluhan's literary formation

As Rafael Courtoisie (1995) said, the conception of media as man's extensions, (developed by Marshall McLuhan, in the decade of sixty, in his work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man), would be equivalent to a conception of the media as metaphors of reality - if we take metaphor in its very primitive Greek etymological meaning, which is 'to take beyond, extend'. This primitive meaning is usually said to be darkened by the traditional conception of metaphor as 'implicit comparison', which appears to be forged by Aristotle and characterizes metaphor as a simple ornamental resource. What is very clear is that several known contemporary approaches (that in some way do echo to less frequent positions in the history of Western thought like the one of Vico and Nietzsche), as famous Lakoff & Johnson 1980, try to review and overcome that traditional conception, developing theories which attribute to metaphors - besides a merely ornamental function - a fundamental role in the constitution of language and thought.

Of course, the conception of metaphor that is underlying McLuhan's theory, a conception that appears to be very iconoclastic, has to do with some particularities of his literary formation. Terrence Gordon (1997) has pointed that McLuhan would recognize as the spring of his studies on media the ideas of Anthony Richards, who was his teacher in Cambridge. As is well known, Richards is one of the authors who tried to develop a new theory of the metaphor, already in the first half of the 20th century. In a letter to Fritz Wilhelmsen (January 28, 1971), McLuhan draws a conductive thread that goes from Coleridge to Harold Innis, making a parallel between the English romantic poet and the Canadian specialist who, little time before McLuhan, creates the studies of the psychic and social consequences generated by technological innovations (Gordon, 1997: 149-150).

Doubtless, for writers like Richards, metaphor is not a secondary resource, that could be avoided and substituted. For instance, in the chapter on metaphor of his book The Philosophy of Rhetoric, a landmark for the studies that came later, Richards renders ironically Lord Kames's stylistic rule, which claims we should avoid doing metaphors with metaphors. According to Richards, if that rule were taken seriously, we would have the destruction, largely, of language: 'How about this suggested rule that we should carefully avoid mounting metaphor upon metaphor? What would be the effect of taking it seriously? It would, if we accepted and observed it, make havoc of most writing and speech' (1981 [1936]: 55). To sustain his position, Richards analyzes the metaphor 'giddy brink', affirming that it is incorrect to interpret it as if it is equivalent to something of the type '"giddy-making" brink', because when we are in a moment of vertigo, the brink itself is noticed as floating and oscillating. The movement of the eyes is transmitted to the world, in a radical metaphorical process, in which dizziness infects the things around us. Our eyes are twitched, but it is the world that twirls. According to him, that metaphorical process is present in all our perceptions. Thus, he concludes:

'Our world is a projected world, shot through with characters lent to it from our own life. The process of metaphor in language, the exchanges between the meanings of words which we study in explicit verbal metaphors, is super-imposed upon a perceived world which is itself a product of earlier or unwitting metaphors...' (Richards 1981: 60).