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Six Walks in the Fictional Woods Revised Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674810518
ISBN-10: 0674810511
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Eco's six lectures in Harvard's prestigious "Charles Eliot Norton Lectures" invite readers to reexamine how they read and how much is expected of them. Eco argues that any actual reader is an empirical reader with a specific personal reading context. As such, each individual reader is only part of the model reader, the author's composite imagined listener. But the individual author, always distinct from the narrator, even a first-person narrator, is also only part of the model author whose stylistic strategies help all empirical readers infer what the characteristics of the model reader are and, circling back, what those of the model author are. Using entertaining anecdotes from serious and popular fiction (Dante, Poe, Nerval, Calvino), cinema, and journalism, Eco ( Misreadings , LJ 5/1/92) scales back the systematizing of his Seventies semiotics and makes reading a commonsense activity, both challenging and titillating. For comprehensive collections in literature.
- Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY-Binghamton
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Erudite, wide-ranging, and slyly humorous...The literary examples Eco employs range from Dante to Dumas, from Sterne to Spillane. His text is thought-provoking, often outright funny, and full of surprising juxtapositions. (The Atlantic)

Reading [these chapters] is indeed like wandering in the woods...They might in fact be called, more prosaically, "How to Be a Good Reader," for Eco, in his incredibly manipulative way, has you eating out of his hand by the end of them. (Susan Salter Reynolds Los Angeles Times Book Review)

The dim boundary between the imaginary and the real is Eco's home terrain...He is a foxy gamesman, using enchanted woods as a flexible image for narrative texts, and mustering a playful array of allusions from The Three Musketeers to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Robert Taylor Boston Globe)

[This] dashing and stylish series of six lectures...displays Umberto Eco's enviable ability to transform arid semiotics and narrative theory into intellectual entertainment. (John O'Reilly Independent)

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Product Details

  • Series: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Book 2016)
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised edition (July 21, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674810511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674810518
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Six Walks is more accessible than I had expected (my copy is now heavily highlighted, marked up, and loaded with the little plastic stickies I use to flag ideas and references). Eco is speaking to readers and, thereby, equally to writers. The six Charles Elliot Norton lectures begin with the role time plays in fiction and end with the importance (to our perception of reality) of accuracy in writing fiction. This is weighty stuff made accessible by Eco's illustration by example: Yes, Dante, Shakespeare, and Kafka, but the writers who give us Hercule Poirot, Agent 007 and Little Red Riding Hood as well. If you read fiction or write fiction, the material will be useful and the book will please.
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Format: Hardcover
Eco's "Six Walks in the Fictional Woods" smells like Italo Calvino's "Six Memos for the Next Millenium". Each essay, or walk, is an extended musing, in an informally scholastic tone of voice, of the author's preferred elements of fiction reading and composition. Most of the comparative material is taken from Nerval's, Joyce's and his own works, and given splashes of splendour with the special touch of brilliance to which we all know Eco has easy access. The essays lack the intensified beauty of his fiction ("Foucault's Pendulum," or "The Name of the Rose"), but demand consideration standing out as interesting thought material from the legendary linguist.
--Alejandro Arevalo
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
3.5 stars.
I bought this book in part because I am a fan of Umberto Eco, In part because of the reviews and because I like learning from writers what they think readers should know. I wanted to like this book. Mostly I am frustrated by it. I understand why others are impressed with it. Perhaps you will appreciate a contrasting opinion.

I cannot compare this work to Aristotle's Poetics as another review can, I will compare it to Vladimir Nabokov's Lectures on Literature. Both works are publications made from lecture material by two established writers and thinkers. Both sets of lectures are intended to inform readers on how to better go about the work of being a reader. Nabokov and Eco are very nearly contemporaries. However Nabokov is best known as a writer and latterly as an instructor of literature. Eco is primarily a semiotcian given to highly esoteric analysis and `only' latterly as an author of popular novels.

Both Eco's Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, and Nabokov's Lectures on literature require a reader ready to work. Ultimately Nabokov is interesting in teaching and assisting. Eco is interested in name dropping, intellectual clutter, being clever and occasionally insightful. There are very good points in both books. I can recommend them both. I have more reservations with and frustrations with Eco.

Eco begins with several points about types of readers and writers. Once he settles in he has presented two basic approaches to reading. There are empirical readers, who want a literal, factual recitation and who are given to anticipating where an author it going to take the story.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of two texts (the other is Aristotle's Poetics) that largely define how I read. Six Walks is a compilation of six lectures that Eco delivered about how to read, including a description of the contract between reader and author.

While this obviously is a profound series of essays, it is extraordinarily accessible, even when Eco is diving into concepts such as the various types of time, the authorial voice within a story, and the relationship between the reader and the text. Granted this might sound dry, it's not, because Ecco goes to great lengths to illustrate his various points by applying them to specific texts and examples.

Other reviewers here cite examples of top drawer literature, but what struck me is how effectively Eco uses works such as Ian Flemming's James Bond series to illustrate his points. Make no mistake about it, while Eco has a fine literate mind as illustrated by his better books, this is a guy who read comic books growing up and still understands their value to literature, to readers, and to a meaningful reading life.

Very quickly, Eco stresses the importance of rereading a text. The reader hasn't done it justice without revisiting it, and that includes the daring-do sagas of James Bond and other popular literature.

In the eye of this reader, the most profound sections address the authorial voice in each text. One of the greatest dangers of reading that Eco acknowledges is the reader projecting onto the text his own thoughts, values, experiences, instead of seeking out the authorial voice of the text and listening to it carefully.
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