2023-2024 Catalog

LATN 342 Sex, Murder, and Medieval Philosophy: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

In this course, students and professor will collaborate in a close reading of Umberto Eco’s 1980 novel, The Name of the Rose (originally published in Italian as Il nome della rosa). The novel is many things at once. It is a murder mystery/detective novel, a coming-of-age story, a dramatization of debates within Medieval philosophy that resonate to this day, a book about books, and a fantasy about recovering lost works from antiquity, most importantly, Aristotle’s lost book on comedy. We will read the novel slowly and deeply over the course of the semester and together we will explore its themes—such as the nature of words, names, and other signs, the meaning of laughter, and the value of tolerance in a world of dogmatic certainties—and its rich literary allusions—to Sherlock Holmes, Jorge Luis Borges, Alexandre Dumas, and to numerous Medieval and ancient authors. We will track down the novel’s literary references (by reading secondary resources, such as scholarly articles), seek to understand the rich world of philosophical and theological thought its characters inhabit (by reading primary texts of Medieval philosophy, theology, and poetry), and wallow in the sheer beauty of Eco’s writing and the sheer thrill of the story he is telling, all with the goal of interpreting the novel as deeply as possible, as one of the most significant postmodern works of fiction.


Students completing the final paper in this course with a grade of C or higher can use this work to satisfy the Second-Stage Writing Requirement.


5 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Pre-1800
  • Regional Focus