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Travels in Hyperreality: Essays

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By ``hyperreality'' Eco is alluding to the American ``frantic desire for the almost real,'' the yen for fakes to fill a cultural void. The trenchant title essay analyzes the American psyche as it hops from erotic laser holograms to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Disneyland. Eco, well known as a novelist (The Name of the Rose, is urbane, detached, elegant and sometimes obscure as an essayist. This uneven collection of newspaper and magazine pieces reflects the Italian scholar's love of the Middle Agesone essay compares American universities to monasteries, another focuses on Thomas Aquinasthough, for the most part, Eco relentlessly analyzes the present. He examines sport as a calculated waste of energy, presents a structuralist critique of Casablanca and offers commentaries on the Red Brigades, credit-card cheats, the religious revival and blue jeans as a latter-day version of knights' armor. (May 22)
Library Journal
This smorgasbord of 26 pieces ultimately focuses on the boundaries of realism as exemplified by the``hyper reality'' of American phenomena like the Madonna Inn, wax museums, San Simeon, theme parks, etc. Though his tone is witty, Eco's purpose remains that of the semiologist. He is concerned about ``the systems of signs that we use to describe the world and tell it to one another,'' and aims both to expose the ``messages'' of political and economic power and of ``the entertainment industry and the revolution industry'' and to show us how to analyze and criticize them. Though these essays are generally entertaining, they lack the originality and punch of Barthes's Mythologies and seem unlikely to find the same popular success as Eco's own The Name of the Rose . Richard Kuczkowski, Dir., Continuing Education, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151910793
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/1986
  • Pages: 236

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

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