This book provides a philosophical overview of Umberto Eco's historical and cultural development as a unique, internationally recognized public intellectual who communicates his ideas to both an academic and a popular audience. It describes Eco’s intellectual development from his childhood during World War II and student involvement as a Catholic youth activist and scholar of the Middle Ages, to his early writings on the "openness" of modern works such as Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Merrell also explores Eco’s pioneering role in semiotics and his later career as a novelist.
Douglass Merrell completed his PhD in in History on Umberto Eco at the University of Washington in 2000. He has subsequently taught in Rome, Venice, and Padua.