Before he was a best-selling novelist, Umberto Eco's reputation rested on his academic writings on language and semiotics (the study of symbols). An Italian critic, philosopher and historian specializing in medieval history, Eco's first important book was 1959's Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. During the 1960s he taught at several Italian universities and wrote essays for the avant-garde magazine Il Verri. In the '70s he took a position as a professor at the University of Bologna and furthered his reputation with columns, essays and books such as A Theory of Semiotics (1976). In 1980 his first novel, The Name of the Rose, was published and was a surprise bestseller, vaulting Eco to international fame (a 1986 film version starred Sean Connery). Since then he has continued teaching and writing, publishing non-fiction books such as Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (1984) and popular novels such as Foucault's Pendulum (1988) and Baudolino (2000).
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