In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

generally allowed to write only eight letters a year, at four designated times, half of which were to be to the monk’s family. Nevertheless, Merton eventually became a prolific correspondent, with well over 4,000 letters to hundreds of different people, famous and obscure, of various religious beliefs or no religion at all. Though not without a few lacunae and a scattering of minor inaccuracies, Merton and Waugh is in the main a balanced, judicious, and insightful account and transcription of one of his earliest important epistolary friendships. It is a welcome addition to the expanding series of volumes that provide access to this significant dimension of his life and work. Patrick F O’Connell Gannon University B. W. Powe. Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-44261616 -5. Pp. xii + 354. $32.95. In Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy, readers will discover a work that feels as though it simply had to be. There is a sense of the inevitable in this study that links the extraordinary careers of its two subjects. As a student of both celebrated luminaries at the University of Toronto during the 1970s, B. W. Powe is right for the authorship of such a book. His interest in the two—initially dazzled by McLuhan, then later awed by Frye—has matured over the decades as he has become a formidable scholar of their works. Thus, Powe is an interpreter who can help readers come to terms with both the personal rivalry that marked the parallel careers of McLuhan and Frye and the revolutionary ideas that pervade their writings. Another reason to take up Powe’s work is for its secondary purpose: his elucidation of the distinct character of Canadian scholarship. McLuhan and Frye understandably take center stage in such an effort, and the general concern for a national intellectual identity becomes particularized in the careful reading of each innovator’s life and thought. Hence, although Powe never identifies himself as a Canadianist—the term appears one time in this book—a Canadianist he is. (See, for example, his earlier works, including his 2006 book Towards a Canada of Light.) The scope of Powe’s thesis regarding a ‘‘Canadian difference’’ leads to overgeneralizations at times, but these are almost always venial lapses, forgivable in light of his larger concern to advance the book’s thought-provoking subtext—namely, that a nation’s polity, history, and even geography could influence the scholarship emerging from its academies. Powe sees in Canadian thought an alternative to the American variety that dominates in the western hemisphere, often effectively driving out other possibilities. Moreover, as a Commonwealth nation, Canada’s intellectual contributions can also temper those strains of thought dominant across the Atlantic and around Book Reviews 491 the globe. Thus, Powe presents his homeland—even his city, Toronto—as embodying a third way, ‘‘a place between, a mediation point’’ that stands ‘‘as an outsider to the imperiums (European and American)’’ (59). While the Continental temptation is to view the world through the lens of ‘‘ideological constructs’’ (193), the American predisposition is toward a ‘‘ferocious, sometimes nihilistic . . . conflict’’ (36); these are the two hazards that, according to Powe, McLuhan and Frye’s Canadian third way safely navigates. At times, Powe does get carried away by his thesis. For example, in the book’s second chapter he speculates that McLuhan and Frye were able to resist temptations to relocate to more prestigious institutions abroad because they ‘‘surely surmised : better to be living and thinking in a province than swallowed by the allure of empire.’’ Help in the fight against such temptations comes in the form of ‘‘arctic winds from the north [that] periodically sweep down [into Toronto] to cleanse your eye, refreshing your senses’’ (58). The claim that the University of Toronto’s climate could instill prudence and curb ambition taxes credulity, reading more like poetry than criticism. (Powe, it should be noted, is also a published poet, novelist, memoirist and parabolist.) While readers could never, with certainty, reject the claim that weather can influence thought (I personally...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 491-494
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.