Open and Closed Literary Works


Umberto Eco is a fabulous author.  He is also considered a living philosopher.  He recently answered 15 questions for the Harvard Crimson. I found the discussion about open and closed literature thought provoking.  Apparently he has written a full book on the topic.  Considering the car ride discussion about the social ramifications of absurd amounts of video game play in the teen male with AV – now 14 – I’m considering using this as a discussion point in wider culture.

As you are gearing back up for that final push through Advent and into Christmas, it might prove a brain warmer.

FM: You have spoken about “open” and “closed” works of literature. Are your books open or closed?

UE: Starting this research, I got to the general conclusion that every work of art is open, because it elicits multiple interpretations … But, for instance, a porno movie is very closed. It is meant to elicit a sexual reaction and then stop. You are not so free to muse on it. In this sense, someone said that I was one of the first to speak of the role played by the reader in the development of a work of art … I always try to remember that when I spoke of “open work” the title had two aspects—the “open” and the “work”—so the work was there, and it could limit interpretations … If you ask me if my books are open, I don’t know.

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