At first sight we might think that form [list] is characteristic of mature cultures which know the world around them, whose order they have recognized and defined. Contrary to this, the list would seem to be typical of primitive cultures that still have an imprecise image of the universe and limit themselves to listing as many of its properties as they can name without trying to establish a hierarchical relationship among them. For example, we might interpret Hesiod’s Theogony in this sense: it is an inexhausted list of divine creatures that certainly refer to a genealogical tree that a philologically patient reading could reconstruct, but this is definitely not the way in which the reader reads or listens to the text. It presents itself as a rather intolerable swarm of monstrous and prodigious beings, a universe overpopulated with invisible individuals that runs parallel to that of our experience, and who’s roots are sunk in the mists of time.
Yet the list turns up again in the Middle Ages….. in the Renaissance and in the Baroque period…. and especially in the modern and post-modern world; a sign that we are subject to the infinity of lists for many diverse reasons.
From The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay by Umberto Eco