Umberto Eco

(1932—) President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici, University of Bologna

Italian synthetic modernist whose work underpins many of the theories about what is real ?, and what is original?

Pseudonym: Dedalus


Author's home page: Porta Ludovica
Homepages, texts online, etc: Robert Daeley's “Bohemian Ink” web site
Biography by Petri Liukkonen
Travels in Hyperreality


“I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and who knows he cannot say to her, I love you madly, because he knows that she knows (and she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, “As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly.” At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wants to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony . . . But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.” (Postscript to The Name of the Rose)

“Gentlemen, I will now show you this text. Forgive me for using a photocopy. It's not distrust. I don't want to subject the original to further wear.” “But Ingolf's copy wasn't the original,” I said.“The parchment was the original.” “Casubon, when originals no longer exist, the last copy is the original.” (Foucault's Pendulum)

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” (Umberto Eco)

“I felt like poisoning a monk.”
Umberto Eco, on why he wrote the novel. "The Name of the Rose."

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.”
(Travels in Hyperreality)

“Idiot. Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum's business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off—he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encounter—their first and last encounter—with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?

(Foucault's Pendulum, trans. Wm. Weaver)

"Let us be realistic: there is nothing more meaningful than a text which asserts there is no meaning. If there is something to be interpreted, the interpreter must speak of something which must be found somewhere, and in some way respected."

(The Limits of Interpretation, 7)

Select Bibliography
  • Il problema estetico in San Tommaso, 1956; ET: The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas.
  • Filosofi in libertà, 1958 (as Dedalus).
  • Storiografia medievale ed estetica teaorica, 1962 (?).
  • Opera aperta, 1962 (rev. ed. 1972); ET: The Open Work.
  • Diario minimo, 1963 (rev. ed. 1976); ET: Misreadings.
  • Apocalittici e integrati, 1964 (rev. ed 1977).
  • Le poetiche di Joyce, 1965 (repr. Le poetiche di Joyce dalla “summa” al Finnegan's Wake,” 1966; ET: The Middle Ages of James Joyce: The Aesthetics of Chaosmos.
  • Appunti per una semiologia delle comunicazioni visive, 1967.
  • La struttura assente, 1968.
  • La definizione dell'arte, 1968.
  • Sviluppo dell'estetica madioevele, 1969.
  • De consolatione picturae: A conversation between Umberto Eco and Gianfranco Baruchello, 1970.
  • Le forme del contenuto, 1971.
  • Il segno, 1971.
  • Il costume di casa, 1973.
  • Beato di liébana, 1973.
  • Eugenio Carmi, 1973.
  • Ammazza l'Uccellino, 1973.
  • Apocalittici e integrati, 1974 (rev. ed. 1977).
  • Looking for a Logic Culture, 1975.
  • Dalla periferia dell'impero, 1976.
  • Il superuomo di massa, 1976 (rev. ed. 1978).
  • Trattato di semiotica generale, 1976; ET: A Theory of Semiotics.
  • Christiaesimo e politica, 1976.
  • Stelle & [i.e.] Stellette, 1976.
  • Come si fa una tesi de laurea, 1977.
  • Lector in fabula, 1979; ET: The Role of the Reader.
  • Perché continuiamo a fare e a insegnare arte?, 1979 (with others).
  • Informazione, 1979 (with Marino Livolsi and Giovanni Panozzo).
  • Il nome della rosa, 1980; ET: The Name of the Rose; Ruusun nimi - film 1986, dir. by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
  • Struture ed eventi dell'econimica alessandrina, 1981.
  • De bibliotheca, 1981.
  • Testa a testa, 1981.
  • Enviromental Information, 1981 (with Paolo Fabbri and Mauro Wolf).
  • Miei teatri, 1982 (with Sylvano Bussotti and Luciano Morini).
  • Sette anni di desiderio, 1983
    ed.: The Sign of Three, 1983 (with Thomas A. Sebeok).
  • Carnival! (with V. V. Ivanov and Monica Rector), 1983.
  • Cremonini, 1983.
  • Semiotica e filosofia del linguaggio, 1984; ET: Semiotics and Philosophy of Language.
  • La riscoperta dell'america, 1984 (with G. P. Ceserani and B. Placido).
  • Postille a “Il nome della rosa,” 1984; ET: Postscript to “The Name of the Rose.”
  • Sugli specchi e altri saggi, 1985.
  • Travels in Hyperreality, 1986.
  • Ed. Meaning and Mental Representations, 1986 (with Marco Santambrogio and Patrizia Violi).
  • Arte e bellezza nell'estetica medievale, 1986; ET: Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages: Faith in Fakes, 1986.
  • Le ragioni della retorica, 1987 (with Paolo Rossi and Renato Barilli).
  • Il pendolo di Foucault, 1988; ET: Foucault's Pendulum, (trans. William Weaver).
  • Il bomba e il generale, 1989; ET: The Bomb and the General.
  • Tre cosmonauti, 1989; ET: Three Astronauts.
  • Ed., On the Medieval Theory of Signs, 1989 (with Constantino Marmo).
  • Lo strano caso della Hanau 1609, 1989.
  • I limiti dell'interpretation, 1990; ET: The Limits of Interpretation.
  • Out of Chaos, 1991.
  • Vocali—soluzioni, felici, 1991 (with P. D. Malvinni).
  • Il secondo diario minimo, 1992; ET: How to Travel with a Salmon.
  • Interpretation and Overinterpretation, 1992 (with others).
  • The Italian Metamorphosis, 1943-1968, 1994 (with Germano Celant).
  • Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, 1994 (Charles Eliot Norton lectures).
  • Apocalypse Postponed, 1994.
  • L'Isola del giorno prima, 1995; ET: The Island of the Day Before - Edellisen päivän saari .
  • The Search for the Perfect Language, 1995.
  • Reading Eco: An Anthology, 1997 (ed. by Rocco Capozzi).
  • Serendipities, 1998.
  • Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition, 1999.
  • Belief or Non-Belief?: A Confrontation, 2000 (with Carlo Maria Martini).
  • Baudolino, 2000; ET: Five Moral Pieces, 2001 (trans. Alastair McEwen).
  • La misteriosa flamma della regina loana, 2004 .

For further reading

  • Umberto Eco by Teresa De Laurentis (1981).
  • The Key to the Name of the Rose, by A.J. Haft et al. (1987).
  • Naming the Rose: Eco, Medieval Signs and Modern Theory, by Theresa Coletti (1988).
  • Naming the Rose: Essays on Eco's The Name of the Rose, ed. by M. T. Inge (1988).
  • Effetto Eco by Francesca Pansa and Anna Vinci (1990).
  • Il "caso" Eco by Margherita Ganeri (1991).
  • Umberto Eco, by Jules Gritti (1991).
  • Interview with Umberto Eco by M. Viegnes (1990, in L'Anello Che Non Tienne: Journal of Modern Literature 2).
  • Pendulum Diary, by W. Weaver (1990, in Southwest Review, 75, 2).
  • Umberto Eco and the Open Text by Peter Bondanella (1997).
  • Eco: An Anthology, ed. by Rocco Capozzi (1997).
  • Umberto Eco: Signs for This Time by Peter Bondanella (1997).
  • Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999, vol. 2).
  • Umberto Eco, by Michael Caesar (1999).
  • The Politics of Culture and the Ambiguities of Interpretation, eds. Norma Bouchard and Veronica Pravadelli (1999).