Name of the Rose

January 8, 2007

wikipedia The_Name_of_the_Rose

The following link provides some information:

On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book written by a certain Abbe Vallet, Le Manuscrit de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en francais d’apres l’edition de Dom J. Mabillon

“I completed a translation using some of those large notebooks from Papeterie Joseph Gilbert in which it is so pleasant to write if you use a felt-tip pen”

“large notebooks . . . felt-tip pen” (p. 1) [Eric Backos offers the following suggestions about the author’s emphasis on the material objects used for writing]: Authors often use seemingly irrelevant references to mundane objects to foreshadow broader textual elements. The importance of writing material is particularly prominent in fiction using the recovered manuscript as a plot device. Umberto Eco, Edgar Allan Poe and Paul Auster all use writing material for foreshadowing plot or to illuminate the inner workings of characters. Particular examples of writing materials as hints to the reader are found in Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” and Auster’s City of Glass.

Eco’s fictional translator in The Name of the Rose foreshadows the success of his mission with a comment about the practicality of his equipment and the enjoyment, even recreational quality, of translation. “I completed a translation using some of those large notebooks from Papeterie Joseph Gilbert in which it is so pleasant to write if you use a felt-tip pen” (Eco 1). Further, the translator admits writing “out of pure love of writing” (Eco 5).

While Eco and Poe use quality to foreshadow events favorable to their characters, Paul Auster uses the reversed approach. In City of Glass, Daniel Quinn, already fallen from poet to hack writer, begins his final collapse with the purchase of a cheap notebook after having been “always on the lookout for good spiral notebooks” (Auster, New York Trilogy, p. 46). Yet Quinn is “at a loss to explain to himself why he found it (the cheap notebook) so appealing.” Auster further illustrates Quinn’s slide into insanity with the change from a fountain pen, (unmentioned, but evidenced by spent ink cartridges on Quinn’s desk.) to a pitiful $1 ballpoint (Auster 63).

Eco uses a more complex approach to writing materials in the monastery of In the Name of the Rose. The Abbot’s display of the wealth of the monastery to William and Adso exposes the Abbot’s pride, vanity and avarice. “It is the most immediate of the paths that put us in touch with the Almighty: Theophanic matter” (Eco 145). Similarly, as the monks use the finest materials available and labor arduously to copy crumbling texts, the quality of the writing materials illustrate pride and vanity rather than devotion to God.

Young Adso is drawn into the Abbot’s argument and, while observing a rubricator at work, muses that “the sheet would become a kind of reliquary, glowing with gems studded in what would then be the devout text of the writing” (Eco 185). Adso then makes the mistake of assigning God’s power of life giving to the copyists. “They were producing new books just like those that time would inexorably destroy� therefore, the library could not be threatened by any earthly force, it was a living thing” (Eco 185). Of course the reader knows the gods never take hubris lightly, and these passages foreshadow the eventual destruction of the monastery. The roles of writing material permeate In the Name of the Rose; however, the subtleties and complexities are too many to call this fine thread of scriptocentric hints a “clew” without indulging in a very great vanity. Even the fictional translator and the aged Adso apologize for interpreting their own work. Repentance and penance would be in order for the critic if not for Eco’s indulgence: “Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the discovery of readings he had not conceived but which are prompted by his readers” (Eco, Postscript to The Name of the Rose, in abridged form appended to the paperrback edition of the English translation; p. 506). Perhaps, then the highest aspiration of a critic is to be today’s rose and not yesterday’s prick” (ibid. Eco 502).
Squidoo Paper


One Response to “Name of the Rose”

  1. Marvin Sebourn Says:

    As an amplification on the mention of writing materials, I faintly remember “Youngblood Hawke”, by Herman Wauk. Hawke, as author, describes his continued use of a fountain pen while penning stories. As first one part, and then another of the fountain pen fails, the pen is renewed bit by bit with new pieces, so that eventually he ends up with a working pen which has none of the original parts, but is well-seasoned, broken in, but with a sense of transcribing and developing continuiity. osugeography at aol dot com

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