The Paradigm at the Crossroads in the Middle of the Whirlwind: Arnold Schoenberg, João Guimarães Rosa, and the Animating Faust

  • Christopher T. Lewis United States Military Academy at West Point
Keywords: Gregory Bateson, modernism, representation, “As margens da alegria”, Grande sertão, veredas, Moses und Aron, Dichtung und Wahrheit


In the poem Dichtung und Wahrheit, Anthony Hecht explores the limits of representative art in the attempt to transcend the dichotomy between life and fixture,
citing the need for a “Faust” to animate representation. Through the prism of cyberneticist Gregory Bateson’s theories on advanced levels of learning and controlling paradigm shifts, this article explores how the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg and the Brazilian writer João Guimarães Rosa both exemplify Hecht’s concept of an animating Faust. It juxtaposes Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method with Guimarães Rosa’s transrealism in their respective contexts, culminating in a comparison of the latter’s novel Grande sertão: veredas with the former’s opera Moses und Aron in order to show how they break out of the paradigms of their respective periods, transporting the reader/ listener to the unknowable place that Guimarães Rosa called the “third bank of the river.”