Umberto Eco[a] OMRI (5 January 1932 – 19 February 2016) was an Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician, and university professor. He is widely known for his 1980 novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose), a historical mystery combining semiotics in fiction with biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory. He later wrote other novels, including Il pendolo di Foucault (Foucault's Pendulum) and L'isola del giorno prima (The Island of the Day Before). His novel Il cimitero di Praga (The Prague Cemetery), released in 2010, topped the bestseller charts in Italy.
Eco also wrote academic texts, children's books, and essays. He was the founder of the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Republic of San Marino, president of the Graduate School for the Study of the Humanities at the University of Bologna, member of the Accademia dei Lincei, and an honorary fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford.
Eco in 1984
|Born||5 January 1932|
Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy
|Died||19 February 2016 (aged 84)|
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
|Alma mater||University of Turin|
Eco was born on 5 January 1932 in the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont in northern Italy, and here he attended high school. His father, Giulio, one of thirteen children, was an accountant before the government called him to serve in three wars. During World War II, Umberto and his mother, Giovanna (Bisio), moved to a small village in the Piedmontese mountainside. Eco received a Salesian education and made references to the order and its founder in his works and interviews. His family name is supposedly an acronym of ex caelis oblatus (from Latin: a gift from the heavens), which was given to his grandfather (a foundling) by a city official.
Umberto's father urged him to become a lawyer, but he entered the University of Turin to take up medieval philosophy and literature, writing his thesis on Thomas Aquinas and earning a Laurea degree in philosophy in 1954. During his university studies, Eco stopped believing in God and left the Catholic Church. After that, Eco worked as a cultural editor for the state broadcasting station Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) and lectured at the University of Turin (1956–1964). A group of avant-garde artists, painters, musicians and writers, whom he had befriended at RAI (Gruppo 63), became an important and influential component in Eco's writing career. This was especially true after the publication of his first book in 1956, Il problema estetico in San Tommaso, which was an extension of his Laurea thesis. This also marked the beginning of his lecturing career at his alma mater.
In September 1962 he married Renate Ramge, a German art teacher with whom he had a son and a daughter.
He divided his time between an apartment in Milan and a vacation house near Urbino. He had a 30,000 volume library in the former and a 20,000 volume library in the latter. He was a visiting professor at Columbia University several times in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992–1993 Eco was the Norton professor at Harvard University. On 8 May 1993, Eco received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) from Indiana University Bloomington in recognition of his over fifteen-year association with the university's Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies. Six books that were authored, co-authored, or co-edited by Eco were published by Indiana University Press. In 1996, he was appointed Honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Tartu. He frequently collaborated with his friend Thomas Sebeok, semiotician and Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at Indiana University. He became Satrap of the Collège de 'Pataphysique in 2001. He was Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at St Anne's College, Oxford from 2001 to 2002.
On 23 May 2002, Eco received an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2009, the University of Belgrade in Serbia awarded him an honorary doctorate. Eco was a member of the Italian skeptic organization Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sulle Pseudoscienze (Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Pseudosciences) CICAP.
Eco died at his Milanese home of pancreatic cancer, from which he had been suffering for two years, on the night of 19 February 2016. At the time of his death at the age of 84, he was a professor emeritus at the University of Bologna, a position that he had held since 2008.
In 1959 Eco published his second book, Sviluppo dell'estetica medievale (The Development of Medieval Aesthetics), on medieval philosophy. After 18 months' military service in the Italian Army, he left RAI in 1959 to become the senior non-fiction editor of the Bompiani publishing house in Milan, a position he occupied until 1975.
Eco began seriously developing his ideas on the "open" text and on semiotics, writing many essays on these subjects, and in 1962 he published Opera aperta (translated into English as "The Open Work"). In it, Eco argued that literary texts are fields of meaning, rather than strings of meaning; and that they are understood as open, internally dynamic and psychologically engaged fields. Literature which limits one's potential understanding to a single, unequivocal line, the closed text, remains the least rewarding, while texts that are the most active between mind, society and life (open texts) are the liveliest and best—although valuation terminology was not his primary focus. Eco came to these positions through study of language and from semiotics, rather than from psychology or historical analysis (as did theorists such as Wolfgang Iser, on the one hand, and Hans Robert Jauss, on the other).
Eco's short 1961 essay "Fenomenologia di Mike Bongiorno" ("Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno", then the most popular quiz show host in Italy) received much notoriety among the general public and has drawn endless questions by journalists at every public appearance by Eco; the essay was later included in the collection Diario minimo (1963). His book Apocalittici e integrati (1964) analyzes the phenomenon of mass communication from a sociological perspective.
In 1967 he gave the influential lecture "Towards a Semiological Guerrilla Warfare", which coined the influential term "semiological guerrilla", and influenced the theorization of guerrilla tactics against mainstream mass media culture, such as guerrilla television and culture jamming. Among the expressions used in the essay are "communications guerrilla warfare" and "cultural guerrilla". The essay was later included in Eco's book Faith in Fakes.
In 2012, Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière published a book of conversations on the future of information carriers. Eco criticized social networks, saying for example that "Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community ... but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It's the invasion of the idiots."
Eco founded and developed one of the most important approaches in contemporary semiotics, usually referred to as interpretative semiotics. The main books in which he elaborates his theory are La struttura assente (1968; literally: The Absent Structure), A Theory of Semiotics (1975), The Role of the Reader (1979), Semiotics and Philosophy of Language (1984), The Limits of Interpretation (1990), Kant and the Platypus (1997), and From the Tree to the Labyrinth: Historical Studies on the Sign and Interpretation (2014).
Eco co-founded Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici (known as VS among Italian academics), a semiotic journal. VS is used by scholars whose work is related to signs and signification. The journal's foundation and activities have contributed to semiotics as an academic field in its own right, both in Italy and in the rest of Europe. Most of the well-known European semioticians, including Eco, A. J. Greimas, Jean-Marie Floch, and Jacques Fontanille, as well as philosophers and linguists like John Searle and George Lakoff, have published original articles in VS. His work with Serbian and Russian scholars and writers included thought on Milorad Pavić and a meeting with Alexander Genis.
In 1988, at the University of Bologna, Eco created an unusual program called Anthropology of the West from the perspective of non-Westerners (African and Chinese scholars), as defined by their own criteria. Eco developed this transcultural international network based on the idea of Alain le Pichon in West Africa. The Bologna program resulted in the first conference in Guangzhou, China, in 1991 entitled "Frontiers of Knowledge". The first event was soon followed by an Itinerant Euro-Chinese seminar on "Misunderstandings in the Quest for the Universal" along the silk trade route from Guangzhou to Beijing. The latter culminated in a book entitled The Unicorn and the Dragon, which discussed the question of the creation of knowledge in China and in Europe. Scholars contributing to this volume were from China, including Tang Yijie, Wang Bin and Yue Daiyun, as well as from Europe: Furio Colombo, Antoine Danchin, Jacques Le Goff, Paolo Fabbri and Alain Rey.
In 2000 a seminar in Timbuktu, Mali, was followed up with another gathering in Bologna to reflect on the conditions of reciprocal knowledge between East and West. This, in turn, gave rise to a series of conferences in Brussels, Paris and Goa, culminating in Beijing in 2007. The topics of the Beijing conference were "Order and Disorder", "New Concepts of War and Peace", "Human Rights" and "Social Justice and Harmony". Eco presented the opening lecture. Among those giving presentations were anthropologists Balveer Arora, Varun Sahni, and Rukmini Bhaya Nair from India, Moussa Sow from Africa, Roland Marti and Maurice Olender from Europe, Cha Insuk from Korea, and Huang Ping and Zhao Tinyang from China. Also on the program were scholars from the fields of law and science including Antoine Danchin, Ahmed Djebbar and Dieter Grimm. Eco's interest in East-West dialogue to facilitate international communication and understanding also correlates with his related interest in the international auxiliary language Esperanto.
Eco's fiction has enjoyed a wide audience around the world, with many translations. His novels are full of subtle, often multilingual, references to literature and history. Eco's work illustrates the concept of intertextuality, or the inter-connectedness of all literary works. Eco cited James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges as the two modern authors who have influenced his work the most.
Eco employed his education as a medievalist in his first novel The Name of the Rose (1980), a historical mystery set in a 14th-century monastery. Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, aided by his assistant Adso, a Benedictine novice, investigates a series of murders at a monastery that is to host an important religious debate. The novel contains many direct or indirect metatextual references to other sources, requiring the detective work of the reader to 'solve'. The title is unexplained in the book. As a symbol, the rose is ubiquitous enough not to confer any single meaning. There is a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges, a major influence on Eco, in the blind monk and librarian Jorge of Burgos: Borges, like the character Jorge, lived a celibate life consecrated to his passion for books, and also went blind in later life. William of Baskerville is a logically-minded Englishman who is a friar and a detective, and his name evokes both William of Ockham and Sherlock Holmes (by way of The Hound of the Baskervilles); several passages describing him are strongly reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's descriptions of Holmes. The underlying mystery of the murder is borrowed from the "Arabian Nights". The Name of the Rose was later made into a motion picture starring Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater and Ron Perlman, which follows the plot, though not the philosophical and historical themes, of the novel.
In Foucault's Pendulum (1988), three under-employed editors who work for a minor publishing house decide to amuse themselves by inventing a conspiracy theory. Their conspiracy, which they call "The Plan", is about an immense and intricate plot to take over the world by a secret order descended from the Knights Templar. As the game goes on, the three slowly become obsessed with the details of this plan. The game turns dangerous when outsiders learn of The Plan, and believe that the men have really discovered the secret to regaining the lost treasure of the Templars.
The Island of the Day Before (1994) was Eco's third novel. The book, set in the 17th century, is about a man stranded on a ship within sight of an island which he believes is on the other side of the international date-line. The main character is trapped by his inability to swim and instead spends the bulk of the book reminiscing on his life and the adventures that brought him to be stranded.
Baudolino was published in 2000. Baudolino is a knight who saves the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates during the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. Claiming to be an accomplished liar, he confides his history, from his childhood as a peasant lad endowed with a vivid imagination, through his role as adopted son of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, to his mission to visit the mythical realm of Prester John. Throughout his retelling, Baudolino brags of his ability to swindle and tell tall tales, leaving the historian (and the reader) unsure of just how much of his story was a lie.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2005) is about Giambattista Bodoni, an old bookseller specializing in antiques who emerges from a coma with only some memories to recover his past. Bodoni is pressed to make a very difficult choice, one between his past and his future. He must either abandon his past to live his future or regain his past and sacrifice his future.
The Prague Cemetery, Eco's sixth novel, was published in 2010. It is the story of a secret agent who "weaves plots, conspiracies, intrigues and attacks, and helps determine the historical and political fate of the European Continent". The book is a narrative of the rise of Modern-day antisemitism, by way of the Dreyfus affair, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other important 19th-century events which gave rise to hatred and hostility toward the Jewish people.
Numero Zero was published in 2015. Set in 1992 and narrated by Colonna, a hack journalist working on a Milan newspaper, it offers a satire of Italy's kickback and bribery culture as well as, among many things, the legacy of Fascism.
(Art by Eugenio Carmi)
His new book touches on politics, but also on faith. Raised Catholic, Eco has long since left the church. 'Even though I'm still in love with that world, I stopped believing in God in my 20s after my doctoral studies on St. Thomas Aquinas. You could say he miraculously cured me of my faith,...'
Baudolino is a 2000 novel by Umberto Eco about the adventures of a man named Baudolino in the known and mythical Christian world of the 12th century.
Baudolino was translated into English in 2001 by William Weaver. The novel presented a number of particular difficulties in translation, not the least of which is that there are ten or so pages written in a made-up language that is a mixture of Latin, medieval Italian and other languages (intended to reconstruct how a barely-literate Italian peasant boy of the 12th century would have tried to write in the vernacular).Faith in Fakes
Il costume di casa (Faith in Fakes) was originally an essay written by the Italian semiotician Umberto Eco, about "America's obsession with simulacra and counterfeit reality." It was later incorporated as the centrepiece of the anthology bearing the same name, a collection of articles and essays about Italian ideologies. The anthology contains a selection of essays taken from two Italian books by Eco: Il costume di casa (first published in 1973) and Sette anni di desiderio (1983). It was translated into English in 1986 as Faith in Fakes and later updated as Travels in Hyperreality in 1995.Foucault
Foucault may refer to:
Léon Foucault (1819–1868), French physicist. Three notable objects were named after him:
Foucault (crater), a small lunar impact crater
5668 Foucault, an asteroid
Michel Foucault (1926–1984), French philosopher
Foucault (Deleuze book) (1986), a book about the French philosopher by Gilles Deleuze
Foucault (Merquior book) (1985), a book about the French philosopher by J. G. Merquior
Foucault's Pendulum (1988), a novel by Umberto EcoFoucault's Pendulum
Foucault's Pendulum (original title: Il pendolo di Foucault [il ˈpɛndolo di fuˈko]) is a novel by Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco. It was first published in 1988, and an English translation by William Weaver appeared a year later.Foucault's Pendulum is divided into ten segments represented by the ten Sefiroth. The satirical novel is full of esoteric references to Kabbalah, alchemy, and conspiracy theory—so many that critic and novelist Anthony Burgess suggested that it needed an index. The pendulum of the title refers to an actual pendulum designed by French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate Earth's rotation, which has symbolic significance within the novel. Some believe that it refers to Michel Foucault, noting Eco's friendship with the French philosopher, but the author "specifically rejects any intentional reference to Michel Foucault"—this is regarded as one of his subtle literary jokes.Hyperreality
Hyperreality, in semiotics and postmodernism, is an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies. Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It allows the co-mingling of physical reality with virtual reality (VR) and human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI). Individuals may find themselves, for different reasons, more in tune or involved with the hyperreal world and less with the physical real world. Some famous theorists of hyperreality/hyperrealism include Jean Baudrillard, Albert Borgmann, Daniel J. Boorstin, Neil Postman and Umberto Eco.Kant and the Platypus
Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition (ISBN 0-15-601159-X) is a book by Umberto Eco which was published in Italian as Kant e l'ornitorinco in 1997. An English edition, translated by Alastair McEwen, appeared in 1999.
The book develops some aspects of Eco's A Theory of Semiotics which came out in 1976.
In the first chapter Eco argues against Nietzsche's assertion that the truth is a poetically elaborated "mobile army of metaphors, metonymies and anthropomorphisms" that subsequently get into knowledge, "illusions whose illusory nature has been forgotten".
In chapter two, working with ideas derived from Charles Sanders Peirce and Immanuel Kant, Eco compares linguistic and perceptual meaning when confronted with the unencountered.
Chapter three explores the Aztec encounter with the horse in terms of Cognitive Type, the private mechanism that allows identification of an object, and of Nuclear Content, which clarifies the relevant features inter-subjectively. To this is added Molar Content, which provides a much broader range of knowledge, even if restricted to specific competences. From these he develops an understanding of social elements in the organisation of knowledge.
In chapter four he discusses the different ordering of knowledge with a dictionary and an encyclopedia - that is, the differences between categorical knowledge and knowledge by properties. Using the example of the arrival of the first platypus in Europe, Eco looks at the problem faced by scientists in their attempts to classify the creature for eighty years, and at the contractual nature of the negotiations that produce shared meaning.
In chapter five Eco discusses the Sarkiiapone, an animal whose sole nature is that it is fictive. He then discusses how the meaning of a term is affected by the context, using examples to tease out different meanings.
Chapter six deals with iconism and hypoicon. Eco compares and contrasts "likeness" and "similarity" in relation to perception and conception. To this end he addresses basic semiotic processes that take place within perception and provide determinations from which cognitive types can be constructed, with all the cultural baggage that is involved.Neoavanguardia
The Neoavanguardia ("New Vanguard") was an avant-garde Italian literary movement oriented towards radical forms of experimentation with language. Some of its most prominent members include Nanni Balestrini, Edoardo Sanguineti, Umberto Eco, Antonio Porta, Elio Pagliarani, Alfredo Giuliani, Giorgio Manganelli, Luigi Malerba, Germano Lombardi, Francesco Leonetti, Alberto Gozzi, Massimo Ferretti, Franco Lucentini, Amelia Rosselli, Sebastiano Vassalli, Patrizia Vicinelli and Lello Voce.
The movement originated as Gruppo '63, during a meeting of contributors to the literary magazine Il Verriin a hotel at Solunto, near Palermo. A second meeting would be held three years later in La Spezia. Neoavanguardia poets and writers were mostly inspired by modernist English language writers such as Ezra Pound and TS Eliot and the Italian poet and iconoclast Emilio Villa. They were opposed to the crepuscolarismo (intimistic view) which had characterized Italian poetry in the 20th century, and, above all, to what they defined as "neo-capitalistic" language.
The appearance of the movement generated fierce polemics in the Italian literary world. Neovanguardia artists were accused of being "irrational formalists", "dangerous Marxist revolutionaries", "late Futurists" and the creators of a "renewed Arcadia".Art historian and curator Achille Bonito Oliva was initially part of the group and published two collections of poems (Made in Mater, 1967, and in Fiction Poems, 1968) before turning to art criticism.Numero Zero
Numero Zero (Italian: Numero zero) is the seventh novel by Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco and his final novel released during his lifetime. It was first published in January 2015; the English translation by Richard Dixon appeared in November 2015. It is a satire of the tabloid press, set in Italy in 1992.On Ugliness
On Ugliness (Italian: Storia della bruttezza) is a 2007 essay by Italian author Umberto Eco, originally published by Bompiani in 2007. The book is a continuation of Eco's 2004 aesthetic work On Beauty: A History of a Western Idea. Like the previous work, this essay combines literary excerpts and illustrations of artworks from ancient times to the present to define the concept of what it means to be ugly. "Ugliness is more fun than beauty", said Eco himself and some other reviews.Richard Dixon (translator)
Richard Dixon (born 1956) is an English translator of Italian literature. He translated the last works of Umberto Eco, including his novels The Prague Cemetery, shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012, and Numero Zero, commended by the judges of the John Florio Prize, 2016. He has also translated works by Giacomo Leopardi, Roberto Calasso and Antonio Moresco.Serendipities
Serendipities: Language and Lunacy (originally published in English, translated by William Weaver) is a 1998 collection of essays by Umberto Eco. Dealing with the history of linguistics and Early Modern concepts of a perfect language, the material in the book overlaps with La ricerca della lingua perfetta. As Eco explains it in his preface, serendipity is the positive outcome of some ill-conceived idea.Six Walks in the Fictional Woods
Six Walks in the Fictional Woods is a non-fiction book by Umberto Eco. Originally delivered at Harvard for the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 1992 and 1993, the six lectures were published in the fall of 1994.The Infinity of Lists
The Infinity of Lists is a book by Umberto Eco on the topic of lists (2009) ISBN 978-0847832965. The title of the original Italian edition was La Vertigine della Lista (The Vertigo of Lists) (2009) ISBN 978-8845263453. It was produced in collaboration with the Louvre.The examples of lists in the work range from Hesiod's list of the progeny of gods to Rabelais' list of bottom wipes.The Island of the Day Before
The Island of the Day Before (Italian: L'isola del giorno prima) is a 1994 historical fiction novel by Umberto Eco set in the 17th-century during the historical search for the secret of longitude. The central character is Roberto della Griva, an Italian nobleman stranded on a deserted ship in the Pacific Ocean, and his slowly decaying mental state, in a backdrop of Baroque-era science, metaphysics, and cosmology.The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (original Italian title: La Misteriosa Fiamma della Regina Loana) is a novel by Italian writer Umberto Eco. It was first published in Italian in 2004, and an English language translation by Geoffrey Brock was published in spring 2005. The title is taken from the title of an Italian edition album of an episode of the American comic strip Tim Tyler's Luck.The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose (Italian: Il nome della rosa [il ˈnoːme della ˈrɔːza]) is the 1980 debut novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327; an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies, and literary theory. It was translated into English by William Weaver in 1983.
The novel has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling books ever published. It has received many international awards and accolades, such as the Strega Prize in 1981 and Prix Medicis Étrangère in 1982, and was ranked 14th on Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century list.The Prague Cemetery
The Prague Cemetery (Italian: Il cimitero di Praga) is the sixth novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It was first published in October 2010; the English translation by Richard Dixon appeared a year later. Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2012, it has been described as Eco's best novel since The Name of the Rose.Umberto Eco bibliography
This is a list of works published by Umberto Eco.Versus (journal)
Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici (often abbreviated as VS) is a semiotic journal in Italy. Founded by Umberto Eco, et al. in 1971, it has been an important confrontation space for a large number of scholars of several fields coping with signs and signification. Its foundation and activities have contributed to consolidate the perception of semiotics as an academic field in itself both in Italy and in Europe.
Versus has published original articles by most influential European semioticians, including; Umberto Eco, A.J. Greimas, Jean-Marie Floch, Paolo Fabbri, Jacques Fontanille, Claude Zilberberg, Ugo Volli and Patrizia Violi. At the same time, almost every issue also contains articles by younger, less famous semioticians dealing with new research perspectives in semiotics.
Each issue is focused on a specific argument, like iconism, translation and history of sign or on studies regarding a specific author (such as Louis Hjelmslev, Charles Sanders Peirce or Michel Bréal).
Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1980)
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Awards received by Umberto Eco