On Literature

Umberto Eco

translated from the Italian by Martin McLaughlin
Secker and Warburg 2005
A book review by Danny Yee © 2008 http://dannyreviews.com/
The essays in On Literature tackle a broad range of subjects: the metaphysics and function of literature; the difference between paradox and aphorism; the different kinds of influence; symbolism; style, with a defence of textual criticism and semiotics; hypotyposis, or the representation of space in words; stopgaps; the difference between intertextual irony and levels of reading; Aristotle's Poetics and its influence; and changing Italian views of American literature and its politics. Works singled out for attention include the Communist Manifesto and Nerval's Sylvie, while the writers who feature prominently include Dante, Joyce, Wilde, Borges and Eco himself.

I found a lot in this that was new and interesting: the idea of a reversible aphorism, the post-Vico rejection of the Poetics in Italy, background to The Name of the Rose, and much more. Eco is readable without any background in Theory, and uses his erudition to inform rather than to intimidate. On Literature should entertain anyone curious about literature and its history and analysis.

January 2008

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%T On Literature
%A Eco, Umberto
%M Italian
%F McLaughlin, Martin
%I Secker and Warburg
%D 2005 [2002]
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0436210177
%P 334pp