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Serendipities: Language and Lunacy by…
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Serendipities: Language and Lunacy

by Umberto Eco

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I greatly enjoyed the 'The Force of Falsity' with its many examples of how falsehoods end up have great consequences and historical impact. 'Languages in Paradise' was interesting but I admit to not knowing all of the references Eco made in the essay. I had never been aware of the inconsistency between the story of the Tower of Babel and Genesis 10. The search for the original sacred language is a fascinating concept in itself. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
More language than lunacy, some of it almost too academicky, but Eco’s the kind of semiotician we’d like to drink with. Dante, Borges, Prester John, the cage of fundamentalism, god mumbling with an accent.

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  MusicalGlass | Jul 9, 2016 |
Interesting little book of Eco's lectures on language and some historical concepts. They vary in quality, but still are worth looking at if you have the time. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
As exciting as semiotics can get! Eco is both a story-teller and a scholar, and in everything I've read by him there's a little of both regardless if the work is fiction or non-fiction. ( )
  palaverofbirds | Mar 29, 2013 |
Eco is always interesting, and this book proves this
  JJPCIII | Dec 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eco, Umbertoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156007517, Paperback)

The multitalented Umberto Eco--novelist, critic, and literary theorist--turns his attention to the history of linguistics. In linguistics, as in the other sciences, Eco explains, there are serendipities: "Even the most lunatic experiments can produce strange side effects, stimulating research that proves perhaps less amusing but scientifically more serious." In his earlier book The Search for the Perfect Language, for example, he discussed the project of discovering the language spoken before the collapse of the Tower of Babel. Although misconceived, the project by chance led to advances in mathematical logic, artificial intelligence, and even world peace--the goal of artificial languages like Esperanto and the unfortunately named Volapük. In the five essays in Serendipities, Eco explores some related serendipitous episodes in the history of linguistics; as always, his characteristic blend of playfulness and erudition is bound to be irresistible to any lover of language.

The first essay, "The Force of Falsity," discusses false documents with momentous repercussions, such as the letter of Prester John, which encouraged European explorers and conquerors to seek its supposed author, the Christian ruler of a distant and fantastically wealthy land. In the second essay, Eco considers Dante's relation to the idea of the perfect language. The third essay discusses early misinterpretations of Egyptian, Chinese, and Mexican ideograms. The Jesuit savant Athanasius Kircher, for example, devoted page upon page to mystical interpretations of a hieroglyph that later turned out to represent nothing more profound than the Greek letter lambda. The remaining two essays are devoted to single authors: "The Language of the Austral Land" concerns Gabriel de Foigny's instructive parody of contemporary attempts to devise the perfect language, while "The Linguistics of Joseph de Maistre" endeavors, with indifferent success, to make sense of the counterrevolutionary Savoyard's musings on the nature of language. --Glenn Branch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Umberto Eco's latest work unlocks the riddles of history in an exploration of the "linguistics of the lunatic," stories told by scholars, scientists, poets, fanatics, and ordinary people in order to make sense of the world. Exploring the "Force of the False," Eco uncovers layers of mistakes that have shaped human history, such as Columbus's assumption that the world was much smaller than it is, leading him to seek out a quick route to the East via the West and thus fortuitously "discovering" America. In a careful unveiling of the fabulous and the false, Eco shows us how serendipities - unanticipated truths - often spring from mistaken ideas. From Leibniz's belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo's mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Eco tours the labyrinth of intellectual history, illuminating the ways in which we project the familiar onto the strange.… (more)

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