The Custody of the Eyes

  • Suzannah Biernoff
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The final chapters of this book concern the relationship between vision and redemption. As such, they range over territory that is probably closer to modern notions of the Middle Ages than either carnal or scientific vision. ‘Medieval vision’ is likely to bring to mind enraptured saints and mystics, miraculous visitations and religious art (as the layman’s visionary substitute): not the mundane spectacle of nature or the sensual pleasures of the fleshly eye. Yet the supermundane was only one aspect of redemptive vision. In this chapter and the next I will outline three basic kinds of spiritual discipline, each associated with particular techniques for regulating and exploiting the relationship between bodily and ‘interior’ sight. The first of these technologies of redemption involves the enclosure or custody of the bodily senses; the second uses forms of analogy to elevate the soul’s gaze from sensory things to a realm of higher, transcendent truths. The third model of redemptive vision—the subject of Chapter 6— fosters a heightened sensitivity to sensory (and especially visual) experience as a means of communion with an increasingly human God.


Thirteenth Century Internal Sense Optical Illusion Spiritual Exercise Sensory Appetite 
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© Suzannah Biernoff 2002

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  • Suzannah Biernoff

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