Inkanyiso: Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

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Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana: A conduit for culture, consciousness and cognition

M Spruyt


Eco’s novel describes the popular culture of the Italian fascist period, by deconstructing signs, symbols and signals from a particular period in the lives of both the author and his protagonist. In this sense, the novel can be regarded as a crossover between two genres, the literary and historical. However, the mixture of art and text as a medium for storytelling, or for making references to the human condition, places it in the genre of the graphic novel. This article explores the novel on three levels. A surface reading establishes it as an historical construct, which prioritizes unofficial memory and popular culture. On a deeper level, however, the protagonist’s search into his past can be regarded, in a Jungian sense, as an archetypal journey of discovery. On a third level the ancestral home, Solara, can be regarded as a metaphor for, on the one hand, the collective unconscious, where recurring symbols and motifs act as transformational metaphors and often serve as links between states and levels of consciousness and, on the other hand, for the human brain.

Keywords: postmodernist literature, graphic novel, culture, archetypes

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