Umberto Eco Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
As a semiotician, Umberto Eco is particularly interested in the study of signs and symbols and how the interpretation of signs and symbols is affected by cultural contexts. In this, he has been influenced by Jorge Luis Borges, who turned to mystery and detective fiction as a means of exploring signs and symbols. Eco, like Borges before him, knows well the conventions and readers’ expectations of detective fiction, and like Borges, he uses these conventions to subvert the very stories he tells.
In a number of his theoretical works, Eco examines detective-fiction writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, G. K. Chesterton, and Ian Fleming to flesh out his theory of signs. He uses his knowledge to both extend and undermine the genre, creating in the process what some critics have termed the “antidetective” novel. In effect, Eco creates a parody of traditional detective fiction by demonstrating the ways that conventions can both reveal and conceal, lead and mislead.
In addition, Eco demonstrates the role that readers play in determining the meaning of a text. For Eco, a text’s meaning is not definitive but is rather a function of a reader approaching a text from a particular cultural context. Writers, according to Eco, produce work out of their own “encyclopedia,” or collection of knowledge. Likewise, readers bring to a text their own particular encyclopedia. The meaning of a text for a particular reader, therefore, takes place in the nexus of...
(The entire section is 1192 words.)
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