History of Beauty

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Overview

Now in paperback, Umberto Eco’s groundbreaking and much-acclaimed first illustrated book has been a critical success since its first publication in 2004. What is beauty? Umberto Eco, among Italy’s finest and most important contemporary thinkers, explores the nature, the meaning, and the very history of the idea of beauty in Western culture. The profound and subtle text is lavishly illustrated with abundant examples of sublime painting and sculpture and lengthy quotations from writers and philosophers. This is the...

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Overview

Now in paperback, Umberto Eco’s groundbreaking and much-acclaimed first illustrated book has been a critical success since its first publication in 2004. What is beauty? Umberto Eco, among Italy’s finest and most important contemporary thinkers, explores the nature, the meaning, and the very history of the idea of beauty in Western culture. The profound and subtle text is lavishly illustrated with abundant examples of sublime painting and sculpture and lengthy quotations from writers and philosophers. This is the first paperback edition of History of Beauty, making this intellectual and philosophical journey with one of the world’s most acclaimed thinkers available in a more compact and affordable format.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Beauty, as Aubrey Beardsley once reminded William Butler Yeats, is difficult. Professor Umberto Eco agrees. Having probed the roots and tendrils of aesthetics for four decades, the Italian novelist and philosopher understands its complexities. In History of Beauty, he offers reponses to seemingly eternal questions: What is beauty? What is art? What is taste and fashion? Why do habitually associate ethics with aesthetics? A fascinating inquiry into a perennial topic.
Publishers Weekly
This inspired book begins, after a little throat-clearing, with 11 verso-recto "comparative tables"-sets of contact-sheet-like illustrations that trace representations of "Nude Venus" and "Nude Adonis" (clothed sets follow) as well as Madonna, Jesus, "Kings" and "Queens" over thousands of years, revealing with wonderful brevity the scope of the task Eco has set for the book. What follows is a dense, delectable tour through the history of art as it struggled to cope with beauty's many forms. The text, while rigorous in its inquiries, is heavy on abstractions, which get amplified by stiff translation: "In short, the question was how to retable the debate about the Classical antitheses of thought, in order to reelaborate them within the framework of a dynamic relationship." The selections, however, are breathtaking-300 color illustrations, from Praxiteles to Pollock-and they grant the text the freedom to delve into their complex mysteries. Eco's categories for doing so (e.g., "Poets and Impossible Loves") and his historical breadth in elaborating them are creative and impressive respectively. Long quotations ranging from Plotinus and Petrarch to Xenophon and Zola allow each era to speak for itself, while Eco links them with his own epoch-leaping connections. Seen in terms of a timeless debate on the form and meaning of beauty, masterpieces like Titian's Sacred and Profane Love or Cranach's Venus with Cupid Stealing Honey seem, if possible, even more immediate, and related to our own amorous profanities and thefts. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847835300
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Publication date: 9/21/2010
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 251,219
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco is the author of many best-selling novels, including The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, as well as many acclaimed nonfiction works. He is currently professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna.

Biography

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

Ch. I The aesthetic ideal in Ancient Greece 37
Ch. II Apollonian and Dionysiac 53
Ch. III Beauty as proportion and harmony 61
Ch. IV Light and color in the Middle Ages 99
Ch. V The beauty of monsters 131
Ch. VI From the pastourelle to the Donna Angelicata 154
Ch. VII Magic beauty between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 176
Ch. VIII Ladies and heroes 193
Ch. IX From grace to disquieting beauty 214
Ch. X Reason and beauty 237
Ch. XI The sublime 275
Ch. XII Romantic beauty 299
Ch. XIII The religion of beauty 329
Ch. XIV The new object 361
Ch. XV The beauty of machines 381
Ch. XVI From abstract forms to the depths of material 401
Ch. XVII The beauty of the media 413
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Customer Reviews

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