Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-11-2018


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Craig T. Maier


Umberto Eco, Communication, Signification, Lists, Algorithms, Collecting, Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, Semiotics, Open Work


This project, Understanding Lists: Umberto Eco’s Rhetoric of Communication and Signification, begins and ends with an observation and warning suggested throughout Eco’s work: lists are the origin of culture and the Internet as the Mother of All Lists threatens to end culture. To understand this warning, I turn to Eco’s work on lists, contextualized within a 2009 exhibition at the Musée du Louvre and in an illustrated collection, The Infinity of Lists. This project offers an analysis of Eco’s understanding of lists concurrent to his commentary on the social and cultural implications of the algorithmic-obsessed Internet age. To understand his argument, this project collects hints of insight through his corpus. In Eco’s cultural aesthetics, he celebrates the notion of openness that invites and encourages audience participation in the interpretation of texts with multiple possibilities. With his interpretive semiotics, Eco offers a theory of culture grounded in signification and communication. Signification consists of the codes of culture that make meaning and interpretive response possible. Communication is the labor of sign production and interpretation. Throughout his literary praxis, Eco implements these theoretical notions into story-form, and with his fifth novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, affirms the mutual necessity of communication and signification. Ultimately, Eco urges us to list as a response to the threats of algorithmic processing of big data that displaces and replaces the human interpreter. For Eco, listing a form of communication that requires the labor to wade through information, activate codes of signification, and interpret cultural meaning.



Included in

Rhetoric Commons