The University of Bologna mourns the death of Umberto Eco

With the death of Umberto Eco, the world has lost a semiotician, a philosopher, an expert in mass media, a storyteller, and a great man.

The University of Bologna has lost a figure who increased its prestige and fame throughout the world. He was an extraordinary intellectual, a deep and acute thinker, the last of the great writers able to embrace all forms of knowledge. It was he who taught us that in order to subvert languages and expression, it is necessary first of all to understand them.

Today, the whole world mourns the loss of a wide-ranging humanist who brought about a revolution in culture, an indefatigable investigator into the meaning of signs, of words and of life.

The Rector has sent his condolences to Umberto Eco’s wife Renate, and to his children Stefano and Carlotta.

Born in Alessandria, Italy, on 5 January 1932, Umberto Eco studied at the Universityof Turin with Luigi Pareyson, and graduated in 1954 with a thesis on the aesthetics of Thomas Acquinas, subsequently published in 1956. His studies of medieval aesthetics and philosophy were only one element of his many cultural interests, which brought him into contact with the avant-garde (in music, literature, and art), and with the novelty of mass communication. His early studies, after the publication of his thesis and a book on the development of medieval aesthetics, were in fact dedicated to the analysis of the phenomenon of mass society and of musical and literary experimentation. One of the best known of these was the Fenomenologia di Mike Bongiorno (1961) - (The Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno) later published in Diario Minimo, 1963), and The Open Work (1962).

His work in Italian state television (RAI) and later in the publishing house, Bompiani, his participation in the foundation of Group 63 and his first teaching posts at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Florence, gave him a privileged point of view on society and on mass culture (Apocalypse Postponed, 1963), enabling him to develop the beginnings of a semiotic approach. La struttura assente (1968) – (The Absent Structure) was the first study of this kind, one which took a certain distance from some of the excesses of structuralism. His interest in semiotics deepened in the 1970s and led to the publication of A Theory of Semiotics (1975), an original theoretical synthesis of different sources of inspiration from linguistics (Ferdinand De Saussure and Louis Hjelmslev), and philosophy (Charles Sanders Peirce), and which proposed, in an academic and cultural context which was by now for him on a world scale, a new discipline.

His work on the systems and processes of meaning continued with a number of other works (Lector In Fabula, 1979; Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, 1984; Limits of Interpretation, 1990; Kant and the Platypus, 1997), thanks to which Eco engaged in dialogues with a number of other disciplines and approaches (from narratology to analytical philosophy, deconstruction, and cognitivism), and his theoretical work was always entwined with his literary work, which began with The Name of the Rose (1980) and continued with Foucault's Pendulum (1988), The Island of the Day Before (1994), Baudolino (2000), The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2004), The Prague Cemetery (2010) and Numero Zero (2015).

From 1975, Umberto Eco was Full Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna. His contribution to the University was fundamental: after helping to found the first degree course in Italy in Drama, Art and Music Studies (DAMS) in the early 1970s, he set up the degree programme of Communication Sciences (1992), which he directed personally in its early years. In 1990 he also founded the Advanced School of Humanistic Studies of the University of Bologna which he directed up until his death.

Umberto Eco was Professor Emeritus of the University of Bologna since 2008 and in June 2015 received the Great Seal of the University.

A civil funeral will be held in Milan on Tuesday.