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On Literature

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,761 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
In this collection of essays and addresses delivered over the course of his illustrious career, Umberto Eco seeks "to understand the chemistry of [his] passion" for the word. From musings on Ptolemy and "the force of the false" to reflections on the experimental writing of Borges and Joyce, Eco's luminous intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge are on dazzling display thro ...more
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published December 6th 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2002)
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Hadrian
There is a lot more here than the title suggests: 'On Literature' includes a history of Italian anti-Americanism, and a piece on the power of lies and deceit throughout history, moving from the Donation of Constantine to the Hollow Earth theory.

Still, it is no surprise that Eco's interests are wide and deep. He writes about the imaginary worlds within worlds of Borges, Joyce's literary influences, Aristotle's Poetics and Dante's Paradiso. He plays around with aphorisms and picks apart etymology
...more
Scribble Orca
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, fans of Eco, literature reviewers
Shelves: literary
Seen this film by Luc Besson?

A 21 hour plane trip is usually the only chance I have to watch a few films. The last long journey I made offered such a dismal selection that for this trip I was already packed with every single one of those books on my 'currently reading' list and determined to finish each (and write a review) whilst on the first and longest leg of my two sector flight.

The best laid plans of ants and a person.

I decided to start with Umberto Eco, and following my fickle habit, I ope
...more
Stela
Questo è il mio primo tentativo di scrivere una recensione in italiano, soprattutto per rispettare la mia decisione di scrivere "i review" nella lingua in cui ho letto l’opera. Chiedo scusa a priori per le goffaggini stilistiche e ringrazio molto la mia carissima amica che ha avuto pazienza di leggere in anticipo questo testo (però non questa nota in cui gli errori sono tutti miei!)


Cominciando con un’opinione generale su Alcune funzioni della letteratura per finire con un resoconto personale e
...more
Мартин Касабов
За литературата: http://izumen.blogspot.com/2015/04/bl...

Еко, редом с Борхес и Калвино, са автори, които напоследък ме карат да се чувствам глупав и културно изостанал. Не само, че ме смазват със своята богата култура, те също така убиват всяка надежда някога да се доближа до тях. Дали ще цитира произведения, с които дори не разполагаме на български език или ще се рови в средновековни ръкописи, страстта на Умберто Еко към литературата е уловена чудесно в настоящия сборник. "За литературата" съби
...more
Jill
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's an essay in this collection titled "On Camporesi: Blood, Body, Life." In it, Eco writes about Piero Camporesi, who in his writing apparently "invites us to look inside ourselves" -- not just emotionally, but viscerally, in terms of blood and body. Eco finds this very strange, unique, and suggests -- perhaps sarcastically, but I doubt it -- that you read it in small doses. It's too real, this guy's writing, you see: you probably can't handle it all at once.

And that, in a nutshell, is why
...more
Gabriella Campbell
Eco tiene sus cosas. A veces es arrogante, a veces peca de localista (su listado interminable de referencias a la literatura italiana clásica es de difícil acceso para los que no somos de allí). Y este libro requiere de por lo menos unas nociones básicas de teoría y crítica literaria. Si nunca has oído hablar de Jakobson, Barthes o Lotman, posiblemente tengas problemas con estos ensayos. Algunos son bastante técnicos y requieren de ciertos conocimientos previos.

Pero el esfuerzo siempre merece la
...more
Dimitris
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These speeches on Literature that make up this book were perhaps the most difficult thing I've ever read. Many things I didn't understand, but many others left me in awe. 4 stars therefore, plus 1 for the Greek translator. I can't even begin to comprehend what knowledge is needed to perform this task!
Arun Divakar
Umberto Eco has been an author whose works I have been trying to finish albeit unsuccessfully for quite some time now. I have tried twice to finish 'Name of the rose' but gave up half way in the process for want of a better reason. Foucault's Pendulum was no better either. The books seemed to mock me ' you need to read much better than this to get to us, boyo !!' was what they seemed to tell me. Every time at the library I pause at the rack on Eco's books and think "Should I ? or Should I not ? ...more
Georgina Koutrouditsou
Μοναδικός,απλά!
Καταπιάνεται (σχεδόν) με τα πάντα και σε κάνει να ψαχτείς ακόμα περισσότερο!
Λόγου χάρη ξέρατε πως το "Κεφάλαιο" του Μαρξ μπορεί να χαρακτηριστεί και από λογοτεχνικής πλευράς;
Νομίζω ότι απλά είναι ένας από τους λίγους Δασκάλους..και εμείς τυχεροί μαθητές του!
Milla
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a collection of rewritten essays on literature from the past 20 to 30 years. The range of topics in the book is vast and for someone who (me) is neither an expert nor a student of the field, some of them are beyond difficult to follow. However, the essays that deal with Eco's own novels and other familiar books are very enjoyable. What I appreciate the most is the chance to learn how someone with actual knowledge of the history and literary references understands the mentioned books. ...more
Nikola Jankovic
Eseji o književnosti, knjigama i čitanju. Na žalost, dosta se razlikuju po interesantnosti za prosečnog čitaoca kakav sam. Dobiješ osećaj da su neki pisani za elitistički krug i govore o temama za koje ne samo da moraš biti načitan, već i imati toliko vremena da pojedine knjige čitaš i čitaš nekoliko puta, kako bi postao "uzoran čitalac, koji ih razume na svim nivoima".

Ako ništa drugo, postalo mi je jasno koliko površno čitamo ponekad, čak i kad nam se čini da smo potpuno udubljeni i fokusirani.
...more
Jean Tessier
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leisure
The book is a collection of essays written by Umberto Eco for various conferences.

On Some Functions of Literature (2000)

Literature keeps language alive. It creates a shared body of stories and characters. Different authors each given them their own spin, but their core is part of the collective consciousness.

A Reading of the Paradiso (2000)

Paradiso is about light, which was an important concept to medieval readers and thinkers. Cathedrals are all about different kinds of light. We don't pay
...more
Christy
Feb 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
A mixed bag; ceremonial talks at awards ceremonies probably aren't where a scholar produces his best work. He's at his dullest talking about the authors he admires, like Joyce or Borges (and outright useless talking about ones he doesn't, like Oscar Wilde), and at his best talking about things like the persistent influence of Aristotle's Poetics in modern ideas about narrative, or the rhetorical structures in The Communist Manifesto. I just like the fact that he's one of those rare figures (his ...more
Imran Kazi
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As always, Eco is brilliant, clear and factual on all things he has to say. Some of the articles requires understanding of Italian literature or classical literature which I skipped because my lack of knowledge. But those on symbolism, perception of American culture in Italy, and particularly 'How I write?' and the 'The power of falsehood' were superb. The last two are actually pretty necessary to understand Eco's novels and the ideas from which they germinated.
Julia
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is worth reading, however, it seems that it heavily gravitates towards repetitions of my favorite "Six walks in fictional woods" and very much of "Confessions of a Young Novelist". Mr. Eco discusses the main pillars of his approach to creative writing, on developing ideas, and meticulous technique of developing the story in time and space. To me, it does not seem necessary to set the action, let's say, on 15th of October 1895 in Paris in the 5th district, and then to check the exact tim ...more
Pieter
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literatuur
In de voorbije jaren las ik meerdere boeken van Eco, waarbij mijn voorkeur uitgaat naar zijn eerste werken. Wat een kans om te lezen hoe een schrijver zijn oeuvre bijeenschreef en welke schrijvers hem beïnvloed hebben. Dante, Joyce en Borges lopen als een rode draad doorheen het boek. Als een restaurant waarvan ik meerdere culinaire keuzes weet te waarderen en de kok nu in zijn potten laat kijken. Voor een niet-linguïst soms wat technisch. Misschien laat ik me gewoon nog te graag literair verras ...more
Ilia
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: out-on-loan
"On Literature" opened my eyes to the horizons of literary criticism. (Caveat: I knew nothing about lit-crit then, and still know next to nothing about it now.)

Eco combines several essays - each focused on one book (most of which I still haven't read) and on a particularly striking aspect of this book.

Reading "On Literature", you are led into the dark and imposing forest of literature and suddenly realize that it's not as tangled and incomprehensible as you imagined.

One of the essays explores th
...more
Temz
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Четири звезди поради несъгласието ми на места с позицията му, както и заради изданието на БАРД. Но все пак...
По-скоро gratia sui, oт любов към себе си, посегнах към „За литературата“ (изд. „БАРД“, 2015) от Умберто Еко. След разочарованието „Нулев брой“ теоритичният размах на италианския автор бе нужната разходка из гората на словото, с която да разсея лошото впечатление, оставено от гореспоменатата.
Във фаталните 13 есета Еко успява да прониже литературата достъпно, методично и целенасочено. Тоз
...more
Harold Bloom Jr
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Umberto Eco's ON LITERATURE is another literary treat. These are three hundred pages of sublime thoughts from the superstar academic-novelist. What I loved about this book is how Eco really goes in to the technical aspects of storytelling.

There are useful chapters on the 'functions of literature', style, symbolism and irony.

My favourite chapter is called 'How I Write' where Umberto Eco writes about how he ended up writing most of his successful novels, especially THE NAME OF THE ROSE.

And the
...more
Sunny
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved this. always love books about books. he mentions maybe around 75 books here the majority i hadnt read or heard of but had read a good dozen that hes spoken about so it was interesting hearing his perspectives on them. the chapter where he talks about the name of the rose is really interesting and how he writes and how he prepares for sometimes 2 years researching, and drawing and taking pictures and notes was incredible. its inspired me to do the same with my book. very scientific approach ...more
Bryan Szabo


Eco reminds me of many things, but this most of all: that which I have read is but a drop in the bucket. There are moments in these essays that make this point more obvious (especially since Eco addresses his readers as though they are familiar, even intimately so, with the works--even the arcane ones--under discussion. Still, his erudition and clear delight vis-a-vis the written word is inspiring.
Doug
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eco cites Borges as a major influence, and it's clear fun to read his linking of Borges, the possible world of the possible library, incontrovertible facts in fiction, hypertext, Dante, Wilde, and on. A fine mind, if far more 'academic' than Borges. Good criticism here; if you are averse to semiotics, you may not like it so much, but Eco draws creative threads and reminds us that a society without literature is a poor one indeed.
Gitta
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, language
I like reading Eco on his writing and on language in general. He takes an infectuous delight in language, as a reader and as an author. Other than the Name of the Rose I have not managed to finish any of his novels, but am fascinated by the processes he lays out in this book, and in Mouse or Rat, another non-fiction book by him about translation.
William Schram
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. Umberto Eco is a very well-read man. I enjoyed reading this because of his multiple references to his own works and other works. Eco especially likes The Divine Comedy and mentions it every chance he gets. He also talks about James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges a lot, which explains his influences and other things.

I would read this again.
Aaron
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you only I have time to read a few of the essays in this book, read the following:

1) On the Style of the Communist Manifesto
2) On Symbolism
3) On Style
4) Intertextual Irony and Levels of Reading
5) The American Myth in Three Anti-American Generations

These are, in my opinion, the best of an excellent set of essays.
Tim
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldnotfinish
I understand Mr. Eco is one complex dude, but when you're writing about literature please keep the sentences to less than four dependent clauses. Sheesh...
Leggendolibri
Il limite di questa raccolta è che è una "raccolta"; si passa da un argomento all'altro senza soluzione di continuità, a parte qualche caso come quello di Borges, in cui l'autore, è oggetto di due interventi in tempi diversi, e in alcuni casi si risponde ad interventi che non sono riportarti ma intuibili dalle risposte di Eco nel testo. A parte gli articoli di giornale, gli altri testi sono scritti per essere letti ad alta voce e in alcuni casi sono decisamente pedanti, come nel caso degli afori ...more
Luciana Darce
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Toda vez que leio Eco, fico meio atarantada. Sinto-me assim um tanto socrática, repetindo para mim mesma "só sei que nada sei". Ele exercita minha humildade ao me fazer dar conta de um mundo de coisas sobre as quais, até então, não tinha refletido; um mundo de livros que ainda não li e que, de repente, fico morrendo de vontade de conhecer.

Confesso que um dos meus grandes sonhos de consumo é assistir uma aula ou palestra de signore Eco ao vivo.


Tudo isso me voltou esse fim de semana enquanto lia o
...more
Solar
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Есетата на Умберто Еко могат да се разгледат като своеобразен тест за интелигентност - това какво ще разбере читателят зависи от литературната му интелигентност. В този смисъл са доста вълнуващи за хората със сериозно отношение към текста. Книгата се състои от 13 есета, които бих определила като философски. Първите две есета са разсъждения върху функциите на литературата и Рая на Данте. В следващото есе за парадоксите и афоризмите ме изненада изключително негативното отношение на Еко към Оскар У ...more
Katri Mei Lightdeth
Цялото ревю - http://ekaterinaes.blogspot.bg/2015/1...

Първата ми среща с Умберто Еко беше в "Как се пише дипломна работа", когато писах първата си дипломна работа. За втората, неговите есета не ми бяха необходими, но и след "Името на розата", Умберто Еко ми се струваше твърде философски автор, твърде описателен, дори повече от любимите ми Гогол и неговият Плюшкин. Но все пак избрах "За литературата" (Издателска къща БАРД, 2015) именно заради литературните теми, а и защото смятам, че една такава
...more
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  • The Uses of Literature
  • A Reader on Reading
  • Lectures on Literature
  • The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life
  • The Art of the Novel
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
  • Anatomy of Criticism
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
  • Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments
  • Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love
  • Literary Theory: An Introduction
  • S/Z: An Essay
  • Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics
  • For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction
  • The Anatomy of Bibliomania
  • Proust and Signs: The Complete Text
1730
Umberto Eco was an Italian writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children's books, and certainly one of the finest authors of the twentieth century. A professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, Eco’s brilliant fiction is known for its playful use of language and symbols, its astonishing array of allusions and references, and clever use of puzzles and narrative inventions. His pe ...more
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“There is only one thing that you write for yourself, and that is a shopping list.” 15 likes
“To emend one's thinking constantly is a desirable practice, and one I often engage in--sometimes to the point of being almost schizophrenic. But there are cases where one should not parade changes just to prove one is up to date. In the field of ideas, as much as in other fields, monogamy is not necessarily a sign of absence of libido.” 8 likes
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