The Infinity of Lists  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Infinity of Lists (2009) is a book by Umberto Eco on the topic of lists. The title of the original Italian edition was La Vertigine della Lista (The Vertigo of Lists). It was produced in collaboration with the Louvre.

The examples of lists in the work range from Hesiod's list of the progeny of gods to Rabelais' list of bottom wipes.


Financial Times writer, Simon Schama, described the book (in list form) as a delight: "profuse, plethoric, prolix, plentiful, playful, populous, picaresque, picturesque; copious, cornucopian, congested, clotted; incontinent, infested, infectious; omnivorous, orgiastic, odd; abundant, redundant; multifarious, multitudinous; glutted, gargantuan, inclusive, elusive, and...exhaustive." However, Schama also described it as exasperating: "If its pleasures easily overwhelm its irritants, that's because the book has the charm of extreme greed."


The shield and its form --
The list and the catalogue --
The visual list --
The ineffable --
Lists of things --
Lists of places --
There are lists and lists --
Exchanges between list and form --
The rhetoric of enumeration --
Lists of mirabilia --
Collections and treasures --
The Wunderkammer --
Definition by list of properties versus definition by essence --
The Aristotelian telescope --
Excess, from Rabelais onwards --
Coherent excess --
Chaotic enumeration --
Mass-media lists --
Lists of vertigos --
Exchanges between practical and poetic lists --
A non-normal list.


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