Satirical essays in which Eco pokes fun at the oversophisticated, the overacademic, and the overintellectual and makes penetrating comments about our modern mass culture and the elitist avant-garde. “A scintillating collection of writings” (Los Angeles Times). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

Playful parodies by the author of The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. Here, Eco pokes fun at the ...

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Satirical essays in which Eco pokes fun at the oversophisticated, the overacademic, and the overintellectual and makes penetrating comments about our modern mass culture and the elitist avant-garde. “A scintillating collection of writings” (Los Angeles Times). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

Playful parodies by the author of The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum. Here, Eco pokes fun at the oversophisticated, overacademic, and overintellectual, and along the way makes penetrating comments about our modern mass culture and the elitist avant-garde in art in criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These 15 essays by semiotician and novelist Eco The Name of the Rose originally appeared in the 1960s and early 1970s in an Italian literary magazine; they appear here in English translation for the first time. The essays are actually satires, pastiches of publishing, art and literature. Typical is the first piece, a parody of Nabokov's Lolita in which the protagonist becomes obsessed with a white-haired old woman. In a work on Columbus's voyage, revised for American publication, the admiral's landing is covered by the likes of Dan Rather, Alastair Cook, MacNeil/Lehrer and Johnny Carson. Publishers' readers' reports for Don Quixote , Dante's Divine Comedy , even the Bible, reject them all. In admittedly eccentric reviews, Eco critiques the design of Italian currency. Although basically amusing, many of Eco's essays have a smug, precious sensibility about them. They seem the product of one who considers himself superior to his material, a dangerous trap for the satirist. Further, Eurocentric references, many of them still obscure despite revision, will leave readers wondering if they're missing most of the jokes. May
Library Journal
Categorized as essays, these 15 pastiches by Eco ( Foucault's Pendulum , LJ 9/1/89) were written between 1959 and 1972 and were meant to be amusing. Most appeared first in the Italian vanguard literary magazine Il Verri , and many were collected in a separate volume in 1963. Parody, Eco notes in the introduction, is linked to the topical, i.e., we can relate directly to Sophocles but need footnotes to find our way in Aristophanes (whom we may not find funny). Eco's proviso may account for some of the sophomoric and strained elements in these pastiches. Weaver, the doyen of U.S. translators of Italian, is always astute in finding appropriate cultural substitutions or inserting discreet footnotes. What he lacked license to do was remove the complacent sexism, ageism, and machismo that mark these texts as late Sixties insensitivity. The only successful pastiche is ``Regretfully We Are Returning Your . . . ,'' in which a publisher's reader rejects the Bible, Homer, Dante, Joyce . . . .-- Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY-Binghamton
Herbert Mitgang
"Misreadings" is a series of parodies -- some sly, some slapstick -- to cause laughter. The pastiche of pieces that make up the book are skillfully translated by William Weaver...The most amusing passages deflate academics, intellectuals, elitists, mass culture and publishing practices...Umberto Eco is a farceur of language who could probably turn a timetable into semiology. He has fun rearranging words and ideas; following him, so do we.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156607520
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/1993
  • Series: A Helen and Kurt Wolff Bk.
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 983,331
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco

UMBERTO ECO is the author of five novels and numerous essay collections, including The Name of the Rose, The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy's highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


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

Preface 1
Granita 7
Fragments 15
The Socratic Strip 27
Regretfully, We Are Returning Your... 33
Esquisse d'un nouveau chat 47
The Latest from Heaven 53
The Thing 62
Industry and Sexual Repression in a Po Valley Society 69
The End Is at Hand 94
Letter to My Son 117
Three Eccentric Reviews 126
The Discovery of America 135
Make Your Own Movie 145
The Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno 156
My Exagmination 165
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