What are some literary techniques and quotes along the themes of women and knowledge in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This is a really cool question because of the content of this novel.  Put simply, The Name of the Rose is about a monastery of monks who are forced into temptation as the papacy tries to limit them from ascending the Catholic hierarchy due to their love of poverty.  Often in the novel, women (or at the very least, love) are seen as the main temptations.  Of course, monks, who in the fourteenth centuries spent their days both praying and transcribing manuscripts, were very into "knowledge" in that regard.  Apart from those techniques, the quotations about both knowledge and women are interesting as well.  Here are a couple that you might find interesting from The Name of the Rose.

Let us explore the idea of knowledge first.  Note the facets of this quotation:

“Then why do you want to know?"

"Because learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do.”

Therefore knowledge is more than just knowing your schedule for the day (and even for your life), it is knowing the evils of the world so that you do not participate in them.  This quotation makes me think of Adam and Eve, their decision in the Garden of Eden, and how their "knowledge" led them away from God due to temptation.  The same thing can be said to have happened to the monks in this book.

Here is yet another quotation about knowledge:

Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.

This quote admits that knowledge is limited.  Even though there are seemingly new and different characters in every piece of literature, they are all simply telling the same old stories again and again.  (This makes me think of the success of Lucas' Star Wars and how he simply took the archetypes for a perfect myth and created them anew.  Sure enough, the public fell for it and it is now one of the most iconic films ever made.)

Putting aside women as temptresses for the monks (who have obviously made their vows of chastity), The Name of the Rose also speaks of women through the concept of love:

What is love? There is nothing in the world, neither man nor Devil nor any thing, that I hold as suspect as love, for it penetrates the soul more than any other thing. Nothing exists that so fills and binds the heart as love does. Therefore, unless you have those weapons that subdue it, the soul plunges through love into an immense abyss.

Note that love is held "suspect."  Why?  Because these women are temptresses for the monks.  The concept of "loving" one of them would have them truly break their vows.  Love is not spoken of in a positive light here (just like women are not spoken of in a positive light in this novel).  Here it is said that we need "weapons" to "subdue" love and fight it.  Otherwise it will plunge the soul "into an immense abyss."

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