Sunday Book-Thought 105

The process of the specialization of ‘literature’ to ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative’ works is very much more complicated. It is in part a major affirmative response, in the name of an essentially general human ‘creativity’, the socially repressive and intellectually mechanical forms of a new social order: that of capitalism and especially industrial capitalism. The practical specialization of work to the wage-labour production of commodities; of ‘being’ to ‘work’ in these terms; of language to the passing of ‘rational’ or ‘informative’ ‘messages’; of social relations to functions within a systematic economic and political order: all these pressures and limits were challenged in the name of a full and liberating ‘imagination’ or ‘creativity’. The central Romantic assertions, which depend on these concepts, have a significantly absolute range, from politics and nature to work and art. ‘Literature’ acquired, in this period, a quite new resonance, but it was not yet a specialized resonance. That came later as, against the full pressures of an industrial capitalist order, the assertion became defensive and reserving where it had once been positive and absolute. In ‘art’ and ‘literature’, the essential and saving human qualities must, in the early phase, be ‘extended’; in the later phase, ‘preserved’.
– Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 49-50.

Sunday Book-Thought 61

If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigation charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to rearrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties. Would we, then, cease to look at works of art as an explorer might regard the gold and gems used as the ornaments of simple nonliterates?
Marshall McLuhanUnderstanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994 [first published 1964), p. 66.