Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages / Edition 2

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In this book, the Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco presents a learned summary of medieval aesthetic ideas. Juxtaposing theology and science, poetry and mysticism, Eco explores the relationship that existed between the aesthetic theories and the artistic experience and practice of medieval culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Alida Becker
This survey of the aesthetics of medieval Latin civilization. . . reveals the insight and eloquence that would later gain [Eco] worldwide fame after the release of his novel,The Name of the Rose.
Philadelphia Inquirer
More than a history of theory,this essay is an absorbing synthesis of theology,science,poetry,and mysticism with artistic theory and practice—providing comprehensive insight into medieval culture.
D. C. Barrett
If you want to become acquainted with medieval aesthetics, you will not find a more scrupulously researched, better written (or better translated), intelligent and illuminating introduction than Eco's short volume.
Art Monthly
D. C. Barrett
If you want to become acquainted with medieval aesthetics,you will not find a more scrupulously researched,better written (or better translated,intelligent and illuminating introduction than Eco’s short volume.
Art Monthly
Diane Collinson
A quarry of valuable material to be borne away in manageable pieces, each of which is to be examined in detail so that the complexities it suggests can be traced and explored.
British Journal of Aesthetics
Michael Camille
A lively introduction to the subject.
The Burlington Magazine
Nicholas Penny
This is a sober and learned study which can be recommended as a lucid exposition of alien ways of thinking.
London Review of Books
Oxford Times
An interesting and thought-provoking volume well worth reading for its original ideas as well as for the aspects shed on art and beauty during that time.
Richard J. Morris
A model of what a historical survey should be.
Los Angeles Times
Robert Taylor
[A] delightful study... . [Eco's] remarkably lucid and readable essay is full of contemporary relevance and informed by the energies of a man in love with his subject.
Boston Globe
Russell Peck
Offer[s] as good a general introduction to medieval aesthetics and art theory as one is likely to find in English. . . . The book is filled. . . with quite wonderful material.
Baltimore Morning Sun
Russell Peck
Offer[s] as good a general introduction to medieval aesthetics and art theory as one is likely to find in English... . The book is filled... with quite wonderful material.
Baltimore Morning Sun
Sunday Times
An original and illuminating synthesis of disciplines usually treated separately.
Washington Post Book World
The book lays out so many exciting ideas and interesting facts that readers will find it gripping.
Library Journal
Eco's slim volume, though 20 years old, remains fresh and useful in this highly readable translation. Eco moves swiftly and surely from Boethius to Meister Eckhart, from subtle conceptual distinctions to broad historical and sociological syntheses. The book reflects the moment of its composition, the heyday of phenomenology, in its search for the intuitive dimensions in aesthetic experience. Eco's study will serve students of aesthetics in general and medieval aesthetics in particular who need a brief but accurate introduction to a vast field, while students of Eco's own thinking will profit from a glance at the scholastic background to Eco's work on semiotics. Ronald L. Martinez, French and Italian Dept., Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300093049
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 628,272
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Few cultural critics and novelists carry the scholarly heft of Umberto Eco, who was a noted historian and semiotician before he brought these sensibilites to bear on major novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. Whether he is deconstructing modern wax museums or spinning a 13th-century tale, he is always clever, stately and profound.


Back in the 1970s, long before the cyberpunk era or the Internet boom, an Italian academic was dissecting the elements of codes, information exchange and mass communication. Umberto Eco, chair of semiotics at the University of Bologna, developed a widely influential theory that continues to inform studies in linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies and critical theory.

Most readers, however, had never heard of him before the 1980 publication of The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in medieval Italy. Dense with historical and literary allusions, the book was a surprise international hit, selling millions of copies in dozens of languages. Its popularity got an additional boost when it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery. Eco followed his first bestseller with another, Foucault's Pendulum, an intellectual thriller that interweaves semiotic theory with a twisty tale of occult texts and world conspiracy.

Since then, Eco has shifted topics and genres with protean agility, producing fiction, academic texts, criticism, humor columns and children's books. As a culture critic, his interests encompass everything from comic books to computer operating systems, and he punctures avant-garde elitism and mass-media vacuity with equal glee.

More recently, Eco has ventured into a new field: ethics. Belief or Nonbelief? is a thoughtful exchange of letters on religion and ethics between Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, the Roman Catholic cardinal of Milan; Five Moral Pieces is a timely exploration of the concept of justice in an increasingly borderless world.

Eco also continues to write books on language, literature and semiotics for both popular and academic audiences. His efforts have netted him a pile of honorary degrees, the French Legion of Honor, and a place among the most widely read and discussed thinkers of our time.

Good To Know

Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, though in 2002 he was at Oxford University as a visiting lecturer. He has also taught at several top universities in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern.

Pressured by his father to become a lawyer, Eco studied law at the University of Turn before abandoning that course (against his father's wishes) and pursuing medieval philosophy and literature.

His studies led naturally to the setting of The Name of the Rose in the medieval period. The original tentative title was Murder in the Abbey.

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    1. Hometown:
      Bologna, Italy
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 5, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alessandria, Italy
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Table of Contents

Translator's Note
Introduction 1
I The Medieval Aesthetic Sensibility 4
II Transcendental Beauty 17
III The Aesthetics of Proportion 28
IV The Aesthetics of Light 43
V Symbol and Allegory 52
VI Aesthetic Perception 65
VII The Aesthetics of the Organism 74
VIII Development and Decline of the Aesthetics of the Organism 84
IX Theories of Art 92
X Inspiration and the Status of Art 105
XI Conclusion 116
Bibliography 120
Index 130
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