Umberto Eco’s definition of postmodernism

“The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her ‘I love you madly’, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say ‘As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly’. At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony… But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.”
Eco, Umberto Reflections on The Name of the Rose; trans. William Weaver, London: Minerva, 1994, pp. 67-68 (thanks to the comment for the exact source)


8 thoughts on “Umberto Eco’s definition of postmodernism

  1. Jenni says:

    Where does this quote come from? (by Umberto Eco) I read The Name of the Rose and it is not in it, would like to track down original source.

  2. j says:

    in a postscript unique to certain editions

  3. john casey says:

    It’s in a volume called The Truth about the Truth edited by Walter Truett Anderson

  4. swakkhar says:

    Eco, Umberto Reflections on The Name of the Rose; trans. William Weaver, London: Minerva, 1994, pp. 67-68

  5. Thanks for the article / information about postmodernity. The subject has interested me since divnity school where I explored its impact on the life of the church in society. It’s impact is far-reaching. Right now I am focusing efforts on exploring how it is chaing the marketing landscape at If you have any thoughs, i would love to provide a link back to your site. Additionally, I would love for your backlink to my site. If you have any personal thoughts on the matter, my most direct email is

  6. paul says:


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