English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily Heady


Comedy, History, Intertextuality, The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco


English Language and Literature | European Languages and Societies | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America


Umberto Eco’s debut novel The Name of the Rose is so saturated with theoretical conversations and allusions that it can be read as a work of critical theory almost as much as it can be read as the wonderful detective novel that so many people have enjoyed. This thesis approaches the novel accordingly, engaging with the theoretical questions and ideas presented in the novel and evaluating them based on a biblical worldview. The central theoretical questions in the novel revolve around what can be known and how. Many critics have argued that the novel answers these questions of epistemology in a very pessimistic postmodern light, concluding that human knowledge is at best extremely limited and fragmented. This conclusion is warranted by the text, but given the open nature of the work, the same evidence can be seen as pointing to a much more stable understanding of human knowledge when read with the background of a Christian worldview – a background which the novel itself invites given its setting and cast of characters. The key element that invites this reading is the novel’s presentation of comedy. This thesis concludes that the novel ultimately presents a view of knowledge that is compatible with the view presented in Ecclesiastes where man’s knowledge is limited but enough for him to rest in with joy.