by Gilda Davidian

We are big list-makers and list-lovers here on ACO (remember this?). So it’s no surprise that I lit up when I recently came across Umberto Eco’s The Infinity of Lists, an illustrated essay about what he calls “the vertigo of lists” which he worked on while a resident at the Louvre. In it he talks about lists being therapeutic, celebratory, as tools to cope with the incomprehensibility of the infinite. He talks about the role of lists in arts and literature, including practical lists, poetic lists, assemblages, cabinets of curiosities, curations, repertories, metaphorical alignments, and chaotic enumerations.


The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.  (SOURCE)

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