The Name of the Rose is the first of the novels of Eco, the most famous, and of the three that I read (Foucault’s Pendulum and Baudolino were the others) the best. There will be more, to purpose of his death, to write some words about it, that will be extremely obvious, but that may not be of further mention.
The novel is basically a defense of the basic values of modernity. Which is more interesting when the defense is done in a story, the same Echo as emphasized in the Apostilles, the hero is defeated. Secondarily, it is also to show how the ideas of modernity are born in a and of a context medieval (again, Eco emphasized the work in making it credible, medieval, thoughts and actions of its protagonists).
Friar William of Baskerville is a nominalistic: it is a doctrine of the middle ages which underlies all modern thinking. The idea that what is real are the particular objects and that the general concepts are only names is predominant in modernity. The doctrine that the signs speak to us of particular things, and that’s where we draw conclusions about other signs individuals (and that it is usually finally allowing for such translations) not only is it modern, but which actually captures the function of the laws (which is what operates as a ‘general’ in modernity) to explain the world. Again, the same Echo tells us that the detective novel is a novel philosophical -it is about the ability to understand the world-so not for nothing the protagonist is a detective. The case is that in modernity, the figure of the detective can occupy that position.
Friar William of Baskerville is at the same time someone who believes in the objective truth of things, and in the need of the discussion. To discuss with Jorge of Burgos, the point in contention is not the truth -they both believe, finally, in similar truths – but the need of the discussion, and that a world of discussion is better than a world of inquisitions. The point of the laughter is not that it is corrosive and destroys the truth (that is precisely the opinion of George, not Bill), but what that allows you to feed the search for the truth. And again, that is particularly modern (in the present day we are more nearby to defend the goodness of discuss about the impossibility of the truth, but that is another point).
And it could continue. Now let’s turn to the second obvious point: That the modernist fails. It happens that there was no plan, and worse, the killer creates one based on the hypothesis of the researcher (and thus Jorge de Burgos, named, for the purpose of Borges, runs an idea that he already had fabulado in The Death and the Compass). So what is modernity when it has been proven wrong, or at least insufficient to give account of the complexity of the world?
For a part we can say that that is the question of the text. And we can say that there are some responses that Echo rejects. In particular, the refuge in the nonsense that makes Adso (that somehow is the refuge of general contemporary culture, after that recognition). Ultimately, it is still true that you can say things of Brunello, and that even if there is no plan articulator, conclusions can be drawn between particular things. And to get good conclusions one might think that there would still be life in the old modernity even when it is known that it was wrong.
In the Apostilles, Eco discusses what he means by attitude as postmodern: That is basically the place is reflective, in which you can’t say things directly and innocently (and that is the problem of basic writing in the Name of the Rose, writing in a time in which you can say as Snoopy because no one is aware who is talking and Snoopy). But the point of being postmodern is to recognize that the output of the innocence not to override what the innocent gaze watched him, but precisely in order to follow it observing after the departure of the innocence:
I think that the attitude post-modern is a that loves a woman very educated and knows that he can’t say “I love you desperately”, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written Liala. You can say: “As I would say Liala, I love you desperately.” At that point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that we can no longer talk innocently, you will be able however to tell the woman what I wanted to say: that he loves her, but loves her in an age in which innocence has been lost. If the woman enters in the game, you will have received anyway a declaration of love (Eco, Apostilles to the Name of the Rose)
In that sense, what is sought is precisely that -when you have lost the innocence – to be able to still speak with truth. In the end, the modern novel -it’s a matter of remembering the don Quixote– since its inception had played with the theme of truth and the interpretations. What is relevant is that you achieve through of that game, and not to stay only in him.
FINAL NOTE. I have the impression, that I could be very wrong, that it is in the Italian literature of the last century, where one can find defenses of modernity more clear, and in authors who know and play with all the reflexividades post-modern. The Baron Rampante de Calvino is, in good part, a fable about the Illustration; and written by an author who also wrote If on a winter’s night a traveler. The opposition between modernity and post-modernity seems to be common to other lands, but in the old peninsula is not so clear such opposition.