"Foucault's Pendulum" and the Text of Theory
Phiddian, Robert Andrew
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Umberto Eco denies that "Foucault's Pendulum" is an allusion to the theories of Michel Foucault: 'I was aware from the very beginning that somebody could have smelled an allusion to Michel Foucault... [but] as an empirical author I was not so happy about such a possible connection. It sounds like a joke and not a clever one, indeed. But the pendulum invented by Leon was the hero of my story and I could not change the title: thus I hoped that my Model Reader would not try to make a superficial connection with Michel.' In this essay, Phiddian refutes this denial. What if Eco's concession that 'maybe I am responsible for a superficial joke; maybe the joke is not superficial. I do not know' is actually true, and the joke isn't superficial, but rather a covert indication that the novel is secretly constructed around the ideas of Michel Foucault and his followers? If we pick up the thread and seek to read the word 'Foucault' in the title not as a 'superficial' joke, but rather as the key to a covert allegory of poststructuralist semiosis, Eco's parodic text starts to spin in fascinating ways. In fact, the precise connection with Foucault is an inevitable and (for Eco) convenient indirection, in that it does not lead us very far in its own right. Phiddian proposes that we read the 'Foucault' in the title as a metonymy for poststructuralist theory at large.