Sunday, November 18, 2007

Interpretation and Overinterpretation

Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-42554-9; Paperback $23.00.

Originally a series lectures delivered in English at Cambridge University (for the same program that originated the “Six Walks” lectures below), Interpretation and Overinterpretation collects these under the editorship of Stefan Collini. It contains an introduction, Eco’s lectures, three papers responding to Eco’s arguments and a final response from Eco. Here the description from the back of the book:

Umberto Eco, international best-selling novelist and leading literary theorist, her brings together these two roles in a provocative discussion of the vexed question of literary interpretation. The limits of interpretation – what a text can actually be said to mean – are of double interest to a semiotician whose own novels’ intriguing complexity has provoked his readers into intense speculation as to their meaning. Eco’s illuminating and frequently hilarious discussion ranges from Dante to The Name of the Rose, from Foucault’s Pendulum to Chomsky and Derrida, and bears all the hallmarks of his inimitable personal style.

Three of the world’s leading figures in philosophy, literary theory and criticism take up the challenge of entering into debate with Eco on the question of interpretation. Richard Rorty, Jonathan Culler and Christine Brooke-Rose each offer a distinctive perspective on this contentious topic, contributing to a unique exchange of ideas between some of the foremost and most exciting theorists in the field.

The chapters of the book are as follows:

Introduction: “Interpretation Terminable and Interminable,” by Stefan Collini
1. “Interpretation and History,” by Umberto Eco
2. “Overinterpreting Texts,” by Umberto Eco
3. “Between Author and Text,” by Umberto Eco
4. “The Pragmatist’s Progress,” by Richard Rorty
5. “In Defence of Overinterpretation,” by Jonathan Culler
6. “Palimpsest History,” by Christine Brooke-Rose
7. “Reply,” by Umberto Eco
Notes on the Contributors Index

You may read more about this work at the Cambridge University Press Web site.