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McLuhan and the Problem of Media Origins: Primordial Language, Mimesis, and Metaphor

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2023, 69(), pp.82-114
  • DOI : 10.17527/JASA.69.0.04
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Received : April 16, 2023
  • Accepted : May 13, 2022
  • Published : June 30, 2023

Yong-Sung Paik 1

1경희대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper discusses the central thesis of Marshall McLuhan’s posthumous work, The Laws of Media: A New Science, which is that media are metaphors: that they are a form of language and as such are metaphors that translate experience from one form to another. This raises the question of the origins of spoken language (the medium) itself, because if we do not capture how the first words become metaphors, we are left with a seemingly self-evident unbridgeable gap between literal and figurative meanings. Foster argues that humanity’s first words were born out of a process of symbolization through affective mimesis, and that “phememes” then constitute the first media translations and metaphors of human experience. This is consistent with McLuhan’s emphasis on layers of primordial mimesis. McLuhan’s metaphor theory gains its ontological source through the translational function of these phememes and the origin of the figure/ground dynamic that he himself emphasizes. We also critically discuss the limitations of a transmission-theoretic or left-brain approach to metaphor theory. McLuhan’s metaphor theory thus extends beyond language in the narrow sense to the medium as a whole, and in particular to the quadruple action of the medium’s tetrad.

Citation status

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