Labyrinths

After reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, I became intrigued with the idea of the labyrinth. In his book Eco weaves the concept in throughout the narrative , both with a physical labyrinth in the library and a philosophical one with the interaction of  the lives of the protagonists.

‘The Name of the Rose’

Umberto Eco. 1980   Translated by William Weaver in 1983

Thanks to the close reading exercise of Creative Arts, I have been able to read this work with a more analytical approach. I began by selecting any passage that seemed important to me and made a list of those excerpts giving page numbers to facilitate returning to the context of each, and returning to highlight those that remained relevant:

Excerpts

In the past, men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an ageing world. (P5)

…the beauty of the cosmos derives not only from unity in variety, but also from variety in unity. (P6)

Machines,he said,are an effect of art,which is nature’s ape, and they reproduce not its forms but the operation itself. (P7)

…recognise the evidence through which the world speaks to us like a great book. (P23)

Such is the power of the truth that, like good, is its own propagator.(p25)

…the book of nature speaks to us of only of essences. (P27)

…images are the literature of the layman (p41)

Words are consigned a meaning by consensus. (P47)

…when the possession of earthly things is in question,it is difficult for men to reason justly, (p50)

Yes, there is a lust for pain (p60)

Your masters at Oxford have taught you to idolise reason,drying up the prophetic capacities of your heart.(p63)

It is only petty men who seem normal. (P65)

…there are no plants good for food that are not good for treating the body. (P66)

For three things concur in creating beauty: first of all integrity or perfection,and for this reason we consider ugly all incomplete things; then proper proportion or consonance; and finally clarity and light,and in fact we call beautiful those things of definite colour.(p72)

P76 + introduces the young monk whose illustrations were grotesque. He says that perfection can only be seen in its absence.

We are dwarfs, William admitted, but dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of those giants, and small though we are,we sometimes manage to see farther in the horizon than they. (P86)

Two kinds of magic: work of the devil aiming at man’s downfall, and God’s knowledge made manifest to transform nature and aid mankind (p87)

…the secrets of science must not always pass into the hands of all,for some would use them to evil ends.(p87)

Aristotle says in the book of secrets  that communicating  too many arcana of nature and art breaks a celestial seal and many evils can ensue .(p88)

and revealed.

Often the learned men of our time are only dwarfs on the shoulders of dwarfs. (P89)

In order for there to be a mirror of the world, it is necessary that the world have a form. (P121)

That is why, naturally, rebellion against power takes the form of a call to poverty. (P127)

…the conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of language. (P165)

Knowledge is used to conceal rather than enlighten (p176). Ref hidden and concealed, light and dark, dapple

How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths (p178)

This,in fact, is the power of the imagination, which, combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain, can compose the idea of a golden mountain. (P188)

Then this means there is identity in different men as to their substantial form, and diversity as to the accidents, or as to their superficial shape. (P197)

….human nature itself, in the complexity of its operations, governs both the love of good and the love of evil. (p197)….I am trying to convince Ubertino of the identity of human nature.

…every movement inherits the offspring of others. (p199)

I had always believed logic was a universal weapon and now I realised how its validity depended on the way it was employed.

Solving a mystery is not the same as deducing from first principles. Nor does it amount simply to collecting a number of particular data from which to infer a general law. It means,rather, facing one or two or three particular data apparently with nothing in common, and trying to imagine whether they could represent so many instances of a general law you don’t yet know, and which has never been pronounced.(p304)

There are words that give power. Others that make us all the more derelict, and to this latter category belong the vulgar words of the simple, to whom the Lord has not granted the boon of self-expression in the universal tongue of knowledge and power. (P130)

It is now known that men impose different names to designate concepts, though only the concepts, signs of things, are the same for all. (P353)

And I, on the contrary, find the most joyful delight in unravelling a nice, complicated knot. And it must also be because, at a time when as philosopher I doubt the world has an order, I am consoled to discover, if not an order, at least a series of connections in small areas of the world’s affairs. (P394)

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs, which in their turn speak of things. (P396)

Jorge did a diabolical thing because he loved his truth so lewdly that he dared to do anything in order to destroy falsehood.(p491)

I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand was the relation among signs. (P492)

William of Ockham, who lived during the time at which the novel is set, first put forward the principle known as Ockham’s Razor, often summarised as the dictum that one should always accept as most likely the simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts (a method used by William of Baskerville in the novel). (Wiki)

Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s razor) is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.

I found that the excepts I had selected fell approximately into the following categories:

1   The Sublime, beauty and Nature

2  Philosophy and Ethics

3   The nature of men

4   Semiotics and language

5   The trace

6   Reason and Logic


1   The Sublime, beauty and Nature

…the beauty of the cosmos derives not only from unity in variety, but also from variety in unity. (P6)

For three things concur in creating beauty: first of all integrity or perfection,and for this reason we consider ugly all incomplete things; then proper proportion or consonance; and finally clarity and light,and in fact we call beautiful those things of definite colour.(p72)

2   Philosophy and Ethics

…when the possession of earthly things is in question,it is difficult for men to reason justly, (p50)

P76 + introduces the young monk whose illustrations were grotesque. He says that perfection can only be seen in its absence.

…the secrets of science must not always pass into the hands of all,for some would use them to evil ends.(p87)

Aristotle says in the book of secrets  that communicating  too many arcana of nature and art breaks a celestial seal and many evils can ensue .(p88)

In order for there to be a mirror of the world, it is necessary that the world have a form. (P121)

That is why, naturally, rebellion against power takes the form of a call to poverty. (P127)

How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths (p178)

3   The nature of men

In the past, men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an ageing world. (P5)

We are dwarfs, William admitted, but dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of those giants, and small though we are,we sometimes manage to see farther in the horizon than they. (P86)

Then this means there is identity in different men as to their substantial form, and diversity as to the accidents, or as to their superficial shape. (P197)

….human nature itself, in the complexity of its operations, governs both the love of good and the love of evil. (p197)….I am trying to convince Ubertino of the identity of human nature.

I had always believed logic was a universal weapon and now I realised how its validity depended on the way it was employed.

4  Semiotics and language

…recognise the evidence through which the world speaks to us like a great book. (P23)

Words are consigned a meaning by consensus. (P47)

…the conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of language. (P165)

This,in fact, is the power of the imagination, which, combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain, can compose the idea of a golden mountain. (P188)

5   The trace

…the book of nature speaks to us of only of essences. (P27)

Knowledge is used to conceal rather than enlighten (p176). Ref hidden and concealed, light and dark, dapple

…every movement inherits the offspring of others. (p199)

There are words that give power. Others that make us all the more derelict, and to this latter category belong the vulgar words of the simple, to whom the Lord has not granted the boon of self-expression in the universal tongue of knowledge and power. (P130)

I doubt the world has an order, I am consoled to discover, if not an order, at least a series of connections in small areas of the world’s affairs. (P394)

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs, which in their turn speak of things. (P396)

I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand was the relation among signs. (P492)

6 Reason

Your masters at Oxford have taught you to idolise reason,drying up the prophetic capacities of your heart.(p63)

I had always believed logic was a universal weapon and now I realised how its validity depended on the way it was employed.

Solving a mystery is not the same as deducing from first principles. Nor does it amount simply to collecting a number of particular data from which to infer a general law. It means,rather, facing one or two or three particular data apparently with nothing in common, and trying to imagine whether they could represent so many instances of a general law you don’t yet know, and which has never been pronounced.(p304)

It is now known that men impose different names to designate concepts, though only the concepts, signs of things, are the same for all. (P353)

I doubt the world has an order, I am consoled to discover, if not an order, at least a series of connections in small areas of the world’s affairs. (P394)

Summary

The narrative deals in the presentation of semiotics in different ways. Exploring the relationship between belief and story content, Eco presents us with many signs that suggest the ambiguity of being inside a labyrinth and not knowing the way out. The labyrinth that is the library is central to the narrative, and could be seen to represent the intricate puzzles of life. In a post-modern world of doubting  and insecurity, Adso’s dream of the shadowy, confused and chimeric monsters takes us into the nightmare scenario of our worst fears. Intertextual references add to the sense of disorientation, taking us backwards and forwards in time and place, adding in a mixture of reasoning and superstition to further complicate our understanding. The references to the corruption in the Church of Rome at the time has damaging implications for present times. One of the interesting themes introduced is that of books speaking to each other. ‘….every movement inherits the offspring of others.’

This has informed the study I am involved with at the moment with palimpsest, with its layers and traces. On reflection, my enduring impression is that of the labyrinth with its applications to the world of nature and to life in general.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Author: Patricia Howe OCA 509589

I am a Level One, mature student living in Devon. While working as a Health Visitor I completed two years of a Fine Art Degree and then moved over to photography working with the OCA because of the remoteness of the area I now live in. I am married with three adult children and work as a Mentor for my local GP surgery covering the whole AONB of Clayhidon. Before moving here, I worked for 7 years managing Emmaus Communities over the UK. My interests are the natural world and how people behave, particularly in relation to the land. I am sure this will be refined over the course of the degree. I have completed Art of Photography and am now doing Context and Narrative. Since then, I have changed direction, having opted for Printmaking 1 and am completing the Creative Arts Mandatory Unit so that I can continue with photography and printing.

One thought on “Labyrinths”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.