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Gödel, Escher, Bach
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter is an intricate and complex study of Strange Loops, Meta-Concepts in general and their connection to self-awareness and intelligence. Each chapter is separated from the next by a short fictional piece in the style of Lewis Carroll, which exemplifies the theme of the following chapter.


The Dialogues contain examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: The Subjunc-TV dialogue is All Just A Hypothetical Situation.
  • All There in the Index: For example, to find where the true end of Aria with Diverse Variations is, search for 'typos'.
  • Arc Words: "RICERCAR".
  • Artificial Intelligence: Discussed.
  • Author Avatar
  • Breather Episode: The interlude "English French German Suite", consisting of Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" in three languages, taking place between two chapters of theories on how the human mind works.
  • Cultural Translation: Several have been approved by the author.
  • Defictionalization: When Hofstadter heard that there was a real Bach goblet, he edited the French version of GEB to make the depiction of the book's goblet the same as the real one.
  • Distracted By The Shiny: The dialogues seem to get much more attention than the actual essay section of the book.
  • Door Stopper
  • Fermats Last Theorem
  • Foreshadowing: Looking at the semantic network on page 370 reveals a lot about the latter half of the book.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The chapter "Contracrostipunctus", which contains an acrostic which itself contains an acrostic.
    • RICERCAR and CEGABBAB (Babbage, C. backwards) show up in the last chapter.
  • Gold Silver Copper Standard: ... Well, okay, not really. But the words "Copper", "silver", and "gold" appear (in that order) in several places.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: French and Latin.
  • Guide Dang It: Despite the cross-references referred to on this page, there are numerous others which are harder to spot; in fact, there are pages about the numerous references in each chapter.
  • Here We Go Again: The ending, which also makes the entire book into a Framing Device for itself.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The answers to the puzzles in "Sonata for An Unaccompanied Achilles." Not only is the answer explicitly used in the text, it is also the two puzzles make up the entire word.
  • Instructional Dialogue
  • Koan: On a whole bunch of baffling ones.
  • Logic Bomb
  • Metafiction: Some stories are so extremely meta that they have no content other than discussions of themselves discussing themselves discussing themselves ad infinitum, usually indirectly.
  • Musical Theme Naming: Every dialogue is named after a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach, or a pun on one.
  • Nested Story: "Little Harmonic Labyrinth", which actually ends while still one level "down".
  • Painting the Medium
  • Public Domain Character: Achilles and the Tortoise, from the Greek philosopher Zeno (who also himself appears).
  • Punny Name: The coppers Silva and Gould.
  • Recurring Riff: This dialogue, repeated, at least, some variation of, thrice; on pages 62, 200, and 724.
    Achilles: Say, don't you play the guitar?
    Tortoise: Fiddle. It makes a big difference, you know.
    Achilles: Oh, well, it's all the same to me.
  • Recursive Acronym: "GOD" in "Little Harmonic Labyrinth" (short for "GOD Over Djinn").
  • Recursive Reality. In so many ways.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly
  • She's a Man in Japan: The Tortoise is referred to as male in the original, but the French word for tortoise is the feminine tortue. Hofstadter, who is interested in the phenomenon of unconscious sexism in language, was delighted when this was pointed out, and gave the French translators the go-ahead to make the Tortoise a female character.
  • Self-Deprecation: A book about "metal-logic", called Copper, Silver, Gold: an Indestructible Metallic Alloy is mentioned in the dialogues. The Crab says that it's "filled with strange Dialogues about many subjects, including molecular biology, fugues, Zen Buddhism, and heaven knows what else." Achilles responds that "probably some crackpot wrote it". The book is also listed in the bibliography, where it's called "a formidable hodge-podge, turgid and confused". Indeed very little praise is given to its author, Egbert B. Gebstadter.
  • Self Fulfilling Prophecy: Commented on if a psychic who could determine the minds of other people was allowed to choose his or her jury if accused.
  • Spoiled by the Format: The Tortoise and Achilles discuss using Filler to counteract this problem. invoked
  • Stealth Pun
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In one of the dialogues, the Crab puts on a record of himself singing "A Song Without Time or Season." Here's how it goes:
    A turner of phrases quite pleasin',
    Had a penchant for trick'ry and teasin'.
    In his songs, the last line
    Might seem sans design;
    What I mean is, without why or wherefore.
    • This is lampshaded almost immediately:
      Achilles: Lovely! Only I'm puzzled by one thing. It seems to me that in your song, the last line is—
      Crab: Sans design?
      Achilles: No ... What I mean is, without rhyme or reason.
  • Textbook Humor: Well, the text wasn't all that serious to begin with, but you have to wonder when Hofstadter describes the DNA of a feline as CATCATCATCATCAT...
  • Title Drop: In the form of Book Ends.
  • To Be Continued: The two Dialogues Prelude... and ... Ant Fugue are, well, two sections of a separated story. The end of the former ends with TTortoise [sic], while the latter begins with Achilles and CCrab [sic], using "ATTACCA" note  as a guide.
  • The Treachery of Images: Subverted—one character takes the pipe out of the painting and smokes it.
  • Variant Chess
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The dialogues, especially, conceal mathematical jokes that aren't explained in the text. For example, in a spoof of Fermat's Last Theorem, the Tortoise claims to have found a counterexample in which the exponent n is "the only positive integer which does not occur anywhere in the continued fraction for pi". Mathematically inclined readers will know that, while the famous constants e and sqrt(2) have highly patterned continued fractions, that for pi is quasi-random, so the Tortoise's claim is of no help at all in finding the value of n.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: A unique version of a fake ending which takes place after the actual ending.

Sylvia PlathPulitzer Prize    
The Glass CastleNon-Fiction LiteratureThe Great Game
Go Ask AliceLiterature of the 1970sThe Gods Themselves
Goblin HollowWorkPagesInMain/G to IGodfrey Ho Ninja Movies

alternative title(s): Godel Escher Bach An Eternal Golden Braid
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