On Literature

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On Literature

by Umberto Eco
Translated by Martin McLaughlin

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | November 14, 2005 | Trade Paperback

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In this collection of essays and addresses delivered over the course of his illustrious career, Umberto Eco seeks "to understand the chemistry of [his] passion" for the word. From musings on Ptolemy and "the force of the false" to reflections on the experimental writing of Borges and Joyce, Eco''s luminous intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge are on dazzling display throughout. And when he reveals his own ambitions and superstitions, his authorial anxieties and fears, one feels like a secret sharer in the garden of literature to which he so often alludes.

Remarkably accessible and unfailingly stimulating, this collection exhibits the diversity of interests and the depth of knowledge that have made Eco one of the world''s leading writers.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 1.1 in

Published: November 14, 2005

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0156032392

ISBN - 13: 9780156032391

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

On Literature

by Umberto Eco
Translated by Martin McLaughlin

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 1.1 in

Published: November 14, 2005

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0156032392

ISBN - 13: 9780156032391

About the Book

In this collection of essays and addresses delivered over the course of his illustrious career, Umberto Eco seeks "to understand the chemistry of [his] passion" for the word.

Read from the Book

ON SOME FUNCTIONS OF LITERATURE Legend has it, and if it is not true it is still a good story, that Stalin once asked how many divisions the Pope had. Subsequent events have proved to us that while divisions are indeed important in certain circumstances, they are not everything. There are nonmaterial forces, which cannot be measured precisely, but which nonetheless carry weight. We are surrounded by intangible powers, and not just those spiritual values explored by the world''s great religions. The power of square roots is also an intangible power: their rigid laws have survived for centuries, outliving not just Stalin''s decrees but even the Pope''s. And among these powers I would include that of the literary tradition; that is to say, the power of that network of texts which humanity has produced and still produces not for practical ends (such as records, commentaries on laws and scientific formulae, minutes of meetings or train schedules) but, rather, for its own sake, for humanity''s own enjoyment-and which are read for pleasure, spiritual edification, broadening of knowledge, or maybe just to pass the time, without anyone forcing us to read them (apart from when we are obliged to do so at school or in the university). True, literary objects are only partly intangible, since they usually come to us on paper. But at one stage they came to us through the voice of someone who was calling on an oral tradition, or written on stone, while today we are talking about the future o
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Table of Contents

Contents
Introduction
On Some Functions of Literature

A Reading of the Paradiso

On the Style of The Communist Manifesto

The Mists of the Valois

Wilde: Paradox and Aphorism

A Portrait of the Artist as Bachelor

Between La Mancha and Babel

Borges and My Anxiety of Influence

On Camporesi: Blood, Body, Life

On Symbolism

On Style

Les Sémaphores sous la Pluie

The Flaws in the Form

Intertextual Irony and Levels of Reading

The Poetics and Us

The American Myth in Three Anti-American Generations

The Power of Falsehood

How I Write

From the Publisher

In this collection of essays and addresses delivered over the course of his illustrious career, Umberto Eco seeks "to understand the chemistry of [his] passion" for the word. From musings on Ptolemy and "the force of the false" to reflections on the experimental writing of Borges and Joyce, Eco''s luminous intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge are on dazzling display throughout. And when he reveals his own ambitions and superstitions, his authorial anxieties and fears, one feels like a secret sharer in the garden of literature to which he so often alludes.

Remarkably accessible and unfailingly stimulating, this collection exhibits the diversity of interests and the depth of knowledge that have made Eco one of the world''s leading writers.

About the Author

UMBERTO ECO is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the best-selling author of numerous novels and essays. He lives in Italy.

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Editorial Reviews

PRAISE FOR UMBERTO ECO

"One of the most influential thinkers of our time."--Los Angeles Times

"Eco combines scholarship with a love of paradox and a quirky, sometimes outrageous, sense of humor."--The Atlantic Monthly
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