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Dizzying Visions. St. Teresa Of Jesus And The Embodied Visual Image

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Chapter Summary

With the loss of bodily control come more powerful ways of seeing ? or so it is suggested by a remarkable engraving produced in Rome by the French printmaker François Spierre in the 1660?s. The Spanish Carmelite reformer and writer Teresa of Jesus (1515?1582) is shown in a pose that recalls her many accounts of struggling with her physicality as she entered a visionary state: body twisting around while seated, head rolling back, arm outstretched as if loosing all sense of her surroundings. As her reflective writings indicate, St. Teresa sought to disassociate visionary experience from the physical act of seeing, and for this very reason she offers remarkable accounts of alternative ways of seeing. To convey the momentary and disturbing character of her visions, she frequently likens them to bolts of lightning or to the oblique luminosity of dazzling light.

Keywords: François Spierre; Teresa of Jesus; visions



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