Emory Report
September 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 3

Admission to each of
the lectures is free.
For more information, see



Emory Report homepage  

8, 2008
Eco to give Ellmann Lectures

By Elaine Justice

Emory audiences soon will have the rare opportunity to hear Italian author and prolific scholar Umberto Eco deliver the 2008 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature on Oct. 5, 6 and 7.

The theme of Eco’s lectures, “Confessions of a Young Novelist,” is a way of letting his audience know that he has been writing novels for a relatively short time, says Ronald Schuchard, Goodrich C. White Professor of English, who directs the lecture series named for the late literary scholar and Emory Woodruff Professor Richard Ellmann.

Eco, the author of best-selling novels, from “The Name of the Rose” (1983) and “Foucault’s Pendulum” (1989) to “Baudolino” (2002) and “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” (2005), enjoys a world readership. But Eco’s career turn as a novelist began 25 years ago, when he was 50, Schuchard notes.

“I don’t think people have heard Eco talk this way before,” Schuchard says of the lectures. “It’s an exciting first for Emory to have him come and tell us about his writing life.”

Born in Alessandria, Italy, in 1932 and educated at the University of Turin, Eco is considered one of the world’s true polymaths: medievalist and Renaissance man, contemporary novelist and essayist, literary and cultural critic, philosopher and theoretician, columnist and editor, linguist and author of children’s books.

Professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna since 1971, Eco has held distinguished academic appointments at numerous European and American universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Collège de France, Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

His many works of nonfiction on semiotics, linguistics, aesthetics and modern culture include “A Theory of Semiotics” (1976), “Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages” (1985), “The Open Work” (1989), “The Middle Ages of James Joyce” (1989), “Kant and the Platypus” (1999) and “On Literature” (2004).

For his many achievements, Eco has received numerous honorary degrees and has been elected to the Academy of Science in Bologna, the International Academy of the Philosophy of Art, the Académie Universelle des Cultures, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Among his literary awards are the Marshall McLuhan Award, the Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, the Cavaliere di Gran Croce al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Vision 97 Foundation Award, and the McKim Medal of the American Academy in Rome. Eco is currently president of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici at the University of Bologna.

Eco’s first lecture, “How I Write,” will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5 in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, followed by a reception on Patterson Green, adjacent to Goizueta Business School.

Monday’s lecture, “Author, Text and Interpreters,” is scheduled at 8:15 p.m. in Glenn Memorial Auditorium. Tuesday’s lecture, “On the Advantages of Fiction for Life and Death,” will be at 4 p.m. in the Schwartz Center, followed by a reading and book signing beginning at 8:15 p.m., also at the Schwartz Center.