The Name of the Rose

by Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose is filled with literary, historical, and philosophical allusions. Use “An Annotated Guide to the Historical and Literary References in The Name of the Rose” in The Key to “The Name of the Rose” (1999) by Adele J. Haft, Jane G. White, and Robert J. White, to select one or more significant historical figures to research. How does Eco draw on this figure in his novel?

Most critics agree that Edgar Allan Poe is the father of the detective story. Read “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget” by Poe, stories that all feature his detective, C. Auguste Dupin. Identify the most striking conventions of the detective story. What do readers expect to find when they read a mystery? How does Eco meet or subvert these expectations? How does reading Poe change or influence your reading of The Name of the Rose?

Write out a time line of the major historical events in Western Europe in the fourteenth century. How do these events play a role in The Name of the Rose? How does having a background in medieval history affect your reading of The Name of the Rose?

Examine as many copies of medieval manuscripts as you can find. (Good places to look include art history books or on line medieval history sites, such as the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library Western Manuscripts webpages, or the British Library’s Lindisfarne Gospels webpage.) If possible, visit a museum and view a real medieval manuscript. At the same time, research the writing of medieval manuscripts. Write an essay in which you consider the techniques, strategies, problems, and challenges faced by medieval scribes in their efforts to produce texts.

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