Serendipities: Language and Lunacy

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

Serendipities: Language and Lunacy

by Umberto Eco
Translated by William Weaver

Columbia University Press | December 17, 1998 | Hardcover

Not yet rated | write a review

Best-selling author Umberto Eco''s latest work unlocks the riddles of history in an exploration of the "linguistics of the lunatic," stories told by scholars, scientists, poets, fanatics, and ordinary people in order to make sense of the world. Exploring the "Force of the False," Eco uncovers layers of mistakes that have shaped human history, such as Columbus''s assumption that the world was much smaller than it is, leading him to seek out a quick route to the East via the West and thus fortuitously "discovering" America. The fictions that grew up around the cults of the Rosicrucians and Knights Templar were the result of a letter from a mysterious "Prester John" -- undoubtedly a hoax -- that provided fertile ground for a series of delusions and conspiracy theories based on religious, ethnic, and racial prejudices. While some false tales produce new knowledge (like Columbus''s discovery of America) and others create nothing but horror and shame (the Rosicrucian story wound up fueling European anti-Semitism) they are all powerfully persuasive.

In a careful unraveling of the fabulous and the false, Eco shows us how serendipities -- unanticipated truths -- often spring from mistaken ideas. From Leibniz''s belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo''s mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Eco tours the labyrinth of intellectual history, illuminating the ways in which we project the familiar onto the strange.

Eco uncovers a rich history of linguistic endeavor -- much of it ill-conceived -- that sought to "heal the wound of Babel." Through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, and Egyptian were alternately proclaimed as the first language that God gave to Adam, while -- in keeping with the colonial climate of the time -- the complex language of the Amerindians in Mexico was viewed as crude and diabolical. In closing, Eco considers the erroneous notion of linguistic perfection and shrewdly observes that the dangers we face lie not in the rules we use to interpret other cultures but in our insistence on making these rules absolute.

With the startling combination of erudition and wit, bewildering anecdotes and scholarly rigor that are Eco''s hallmarks, Serendipities is sure to entertain and enlighten any reader with a passion for the curious history of languages and ideas.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 128 pages, 9.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 in

Published: December 17, 1998

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0231111347

ISBN - 13: 9780231111348

Found in: Reference and Language, Western

save 5%

  • Out of stock online

$30.00  ea

Online Price

$30.00 List Price

Cart

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Reviews

– More About This Product –

Serendipities: Language and Lunacy

by Umberto Eco
Translated by William Weaver

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 128 pages, 9.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 in

Published: December 17, 1998

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0231111347

ISBN - 13: 9780231111348

Table of Contents

Preface1. The Force of Falsity2. Languages in Paradise3. From Marco Polo to Leibniz: Stories of Intellectual Misunderstandings4. The Language of the Austral Land5. The Linguistics of Joseph de MaistreNotes Index

From the Publisher

Best-selling author Umberto Eco''s latest work unlocks the riddles of history in an exploration of the "linguistics of the lunatic," stories told by scholars, scientists, poets, fanatics, and ordinary people in order to make sense of the world. Exploring the "Force of the False," Eco uncovers layers of mistakes that have shaped human history, such as Columbus''s assumption that the world was much smaller than it is, leading him to seek out a quick route to the East via the West and thus fortuitously "discovering" America. The fictions that grew up around the cults of the Rosicrucians and Knights Templar were the result of a letter from a mysterious "Prester John" -- undoubtedly a hoax -- that provided fertile ground for a series of delusions and conspiracy theories based on religious, ethnic, and racial prejudices. While some false tales produce new knowledge (like Columbus''s discovery of America) and others create nothing but horror and shame (the Rosicrucian story wound up fueling European anti-Semitism) they are all powerfully persuasive.

In a careful unraveling of the fabulous and the false, Eco shows us how serendipities -- unanticipated truths -- often spring from mistaken ideas. From Leibniz''s belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo''s mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Eco tours the labyrinth of intellectual history, illuminating the ways in which we project the familiar onto the strange.

Eco uncovers a rich history of linguistic endeavor -- much of it ill-conceived -- that sought to "heal the wound of Babel." Through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, and Egyptian were alternately proclaimed as the first language that God gave to Adam, while -- in keeping with the colonial climate of the time -- the complex language of the Amerindians in Mexico was viewed as crude and diabolical. In closing, Eco considers the erroneous notion of linguistic perfection and shrewdly observes that the dangers we face lie not in the rules we use to interpret other cultures but in our insistence on making these rules absolute.

With the startling combination of erudition and wit, bewildering anecdotes and scholarly rigor that are Eco''s hallmarks, Serendipities is sure to entertain and enlighten any reader with a passion for the curious history of languages and ideas.

About the Author

Umberto Eco is the author of five best-selling novels and numerous collections of essays. He is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and lives in Italy.

From Our Editors

From Umberto Eco, best-selling author of The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before, comes a book that unlocks the riddles of history. By exploring the "linguistics of the lunatic," stories told by scholars, scientists, poets, fanatics, and ordinary people, Serendipities: Language and Lunacy attempts to make sense of the world. From Leibniz’s belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo’s mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Eco shows how serendipitous, unanticipated truths often spring from mistaken ideas.

Editorial Reviews

Informative, instructive, and entertaining.

Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart