Interpretation and Overinterpretation

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Cambridge University Press, 1992 - Literary Criticism - 151 pages
Umberto Eco, international best-selling novelist and leading literary theorist, here brings together these two roles in a provocative discussion of the vexed question of literary interpretation. 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, from 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 to this contentious topic, contributing to a unique exchange of ideas between some of the foremost and most exciting theorists in the field.

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Interpretation and overinterpretation

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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 ... Read full review

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About the author (1992)

First a semiotician at the University of Bologna, and a leading figure in contemporary Italian culture, Eco brought semiotics to fiction in his first novel, The Name of the Rose (1980). This unexpected international best-seller employs the techniques of a detective novel along with sophisticated postmodern narrative and verbal conundrums, to recount a series of murders in a medieval monastery. Eco's fascination with the Middle Ages began when he was a student at the University of Torino, where he wrote his doctoral thesis (1954) on St. Thomas Aquinas. The Name of the Rose (1980) won the Premio Strega and the Premio Anghiar awards in 1981, as well as numerous international awards. His title The Prague Cementary made The New York Times best seller list for 2011.

Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at the University of Cambridge. Most recently he is author of ''The Chatto List': Publishing Literary Criticism in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain', (Review of English Studies 63, 2012) and What Are Universities For? (2012).

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