Unlimited Semiosis, Intertexuality and Ex-Centricity in Umberto Eco’s the Name of the Rose

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Dicle Erbay

AKE 612/712

Assist. Prof. Dr. Bilge Mutluay

UNLIMITED SEMIOSIS, INTERTEXUALITY AND EX-CENTRICITY

IN

UMBERTO ECO’S THE NAME OF THE ROSE

The title of The Name of the Rose suggests many interpretations about the thick book at first glance. Umberto Eco talks about this first impression and why he chose this title for his book in his expository article he published in Alphabeta called “Postille” (after). He says that the idea for the title was coincidental and he liked it at the first thought because the rose is such a meaningful and symbolic object that it actually lost its original meaning- having almost no meaning. After giving many references of the rose (The War of the Roses, The Rosencrantz Cult, Gertrude Stein's poem Sacred Emily), Eco explains that a potential reader would be baffled by such a title as it both meant everything and nothing at the same time. It would be impossible for him/her to reach up to a quick conclusion; in fact, that conclusion is never to come. The title of a book, he concludes, should stumble up ideas, not put them in order. This explanation actually is a small prototype of the entire book in terms of its meaning and “conclusion”. The Name of the Rose is a book that has a multiplicity of meanings, an unlimited intertextuality, and an important theme of ex-centricity. However even this explicit announcement made for the title does not satisfy some result-obsessed people who continually ask Eco why he has chosen that title upon which he answers in his article “Reading My Readers”: “Because Pinocchio and Snow White were already copyrighted” (Eco 819). He seems to have become overwhelmed but his answer is not that silly either. He continues: “My simplistic answer concealed the fact that authors do not speak in the void and are determined- and even censured- by previous texts”. Even such debate over the title only captures the importance of intertextuality for both Eco and his book. In this sense, The Name of the Rose is a book all about other books. In the same article, Eco goes on to explain how to interpret a text with neither consulting the author nor falling for quick conclusions. “The text is there. Narrators, as well as poets, should never be able to provide interpretations of their own work. A text is a machine conceived for eliciting interpretations. When one has a text to question, it is irrelevant to question the author” (Eco 820). Still, Eco must have felt to bring some clarifications upon some academics that had fallen into the pit of symbolic explanations for Eco’s work. Some wrong interpretations included “fishing for ultraviolet analogies” by a “paranoid reader”. What he did was to code a series of characters in one of his Foucault's Pendulum according to their initial letters; Abulafia, Belbo, Casaubon, and Diotallevi, making a pattern of ABCD. Another thing he tried to do was to attribute J&B label to Jacopo Belbo as he is a heavy whiskey drinker. Umberto Eco’s answer to these cryptograms (which he sees as “interpretive waste”) are surprisingly patient: “The alphabetical series ABCD is textually irrelevant if the names of the other characters do not bring it to X, Y, and Z; and Belbo drinks martinis and furthermore his mild addiction to alcohol is not the most relevant of his features”(Eco 824). Although Eco highlights intertextuality and symbolic references, he is never too simple to connect them to trivial pursuits. Thus, he obviously needed to describe a model reader for his works to be understood accordingly: “A text is a device conceived in order to produce its Model Reader. Such a reader is not the one who makes the “only right” conjecture. A text can foresee a Model Reader entitled to try infinite conjectures” (Eco 821). Therefore, the readers of The Name of the Rose, instead of trying to achieve one single meaning, should be open to a multiple and diverse of meanings so that the text can be achieved. The author...
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