Most famous for his novel The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco was a well-known novelist who infused his books with his interest in the field of semiotics, in which he was a scholar. He is also among the famous novelists who have died since the beginning of 2015.
Good research paper topics for your modern literature class might include taking a look at Umberto Eco and his work, in honor of his death. You can access many essays on his work selected from peer reviewed journals by starting your research at Questia.
Born in Alessandria, Italy, in 1932, Eco was the son of an accountant and an office worker; his parents both worked for the same metals company. Eco spent hours of his childhood reading books from his grandfather’s collection of novels, comics, and nonfiction books. He was a devoted Catholic for many years, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on St. Thomas Aquinas. He taught philosophy and semiotics at University of Bologna, and wrote many scholarly essays and papers, some published in popular collections for lay readers, such as his 1999 collection, Serendipities: Language and Lunacy. His celebrity status, which came after his first and best known novel, The Name of the Rose, was published in 1980 was sometimes off-putting for his academic peers.
But his novels, considered challenging by many critics, won him a wide audience in several languages. The Name of the Rose is about a monk detective and his novice helper, who is the novel’s narrator, as they solve the mystery of murders at a monastery. Set in 14th century Italy, the novel makes literary allusions to Sherlock Holmes and the writings of Jorge Luis Borges. In addition to the main plot, the book delves into Christian theology and heresies. It was a massive success and greeted with high acclaim from critics.
Eco’s further novels include:
- Foucault’s Pendulum, about a conspiracy surrounding a pendulum owned by Léon Foucault
- The Island of the Day Before, an adventure about a shipwreck survivor
- The Prague Cemetery, which centers on a Zionist conspiracy
Eco’s last book and other good research paper topics
Pape Satan Aleppe: Chronicles of a Liquid Society, a collection of essays from Eco’s writings in the Italian periodical L’Espresso, was published in February 2016. Among the good research paper topics on Eco could be looking at these essays as his final writings. The initial three words in the title, a reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy, could invite a paper on the meaning of that phrase in terms of Eco’s work.
Alternately, you can browse through the essays in Questia to get good ideas of topics other writers have considered regarding Eco’s work. Questia shows, with a small green checkmark below the title of an article in the search, whether an essay has been featured in a peer-reviewed periodical. A selection in the filter also allows you to limit your results to peer reviewed journals only. Some of the published essays on Eco in the database include:
- “The Intrusion of Laughter into the Abbey of Umberto Eco’s the Name of the Rose: The Christian Paradox of Joy Mingling with Sorrow,” by Diego Fasolini in Romance Notes, winter 2006. Fasolini focuses on the way the novel deals with the concepts of laughter and sorrow in Christian doctrine.
- “Umberto Eco’s the Prague Cemetery: A Game of Double Co-incidence,” by Maria Spruyt in Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies, April 2015. Spruyt uses Eco’s own definitions of a reader, vs. a model reader, to show the role the audience plays in defining the meaning of a text.
- “Revisiting History: Conspiracies and Fabrication of Texts in Foucault’s Pendulum and the Prague Cemetery,” by Rocco Capozzi in Italica, winter 2013. Capozzi discusses the “self-reflexive intertextuality” of Eco’s novels.
Other famous novelists
If Eco’s work does not reach you, consider looking for good research topics in modern literature by focusing on the works of authors who have recently died.
- Colleen McCullough, author of The Thorn Birds and Caesar’s Women, among others, died in January 2015.
- Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, whose final novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, was released shortly after his death, died in March 2015.
- E. L. Doctorow, author of Ragtime and The March, among others, died in July 2015.
- Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and the controversial Go Set a Watchman, died in February 2016.
For more good research paper topics on famous authors, visit Questia.
Which of Umberto Eco’s novels is your favorite? Tell us in the comments.