Interpretation and Overinterpretation / Edition 1

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Overview

The limits of interpretation—what a text can actually be said to mean—are of double interest to a semiotician whose own novels' intriguing complexity has provoked his readers into intense speculation as to their meaning. Eco's illuminating and frequently hilarious discussion ranges from Dante to The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, to Chomsky and Derrida, and bears all the hallmarks of his inimitable personal style. Three of the world's leading figures in philosophy, literary theory and criticism take up the challenge of entering into debate with Eco on the question of interpretation. Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler and Christine Brooke-Rose each add a distinctive perspective on this contentious topic, contributing to a unique exchange of ideas among some of the foremost and most exciting theorists in the field.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Semioticist Eco and three scholars debate whether there are limits to the interpretations of a text and whether the author's intentions are relevant. Eco seeks to limit the degree to which texts can be interpreted, explains how overinterpretations can be recognized based on the intention of the work, and argues that the author of the text can rule out some interpretations. Rorty, a pragmatist, feels that texts should be able to be used for the readers' own purposes. Jonathan Culler, a literary theorist, defends ``overinterpretation,'' and critic Christine Brook-Rose digresses slightly by discussing what she calls ``palimpsest history.'' In the final lecture, Eco responds to Rorty's assertions. This is high-level literary theory, expressed brilliantly, appropriate primarily for academic and large public libraries.-- Ann Irvine, Kensington Park Lib., Md.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521425544
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/1992
  • Series: Tanner Lectures in Human Values Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 164
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.39 (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.

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

Introduction: Interpretation terminable and interminable Stefan Collini; 1. Interpretation and history Umberto Eco; 2. Overinterpreting texts Umberto Eco; 3. Between author and text Umberto Eco; 4. The pragmatist's progress Richard Rorty; 5. In defence of overinterpretation Jonathan Culler; 6. Palimpsest history Christine Brook-Rose; 7. Reply Umberto Eco; Index.

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