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Interdisciplinary German

Cultural Studies


Edited by
Scott Denham, Irene Kacandes
and Jonathan Petropoulos

Interiority and Exteriority in Premodern, Modern,

and Contemporary Thought

Volume 15

Edited by
Rudiger Campe and Julia Weber


RUdiger Campe and julia Weber
Rethinking Emotion: Moving beyond Interiority
An Introduction - 1

1. Modes of lnteriorization:
Emotion before the Great Dichotomy
Catherine Newmark
From Moving the Soul to Moving into the Soul
On lnteriorization in the Philosophy of the Passions- 21
RUdiger Campe
Presenting the Affect
The Scene of Pathos in Aristotle's Rhetoric and Its Revision in
Descartes's Passions of the Soul- 36
Niklaus Largier
The Art of Prayer
Conversions of Interiority and Exteriority in Medieval Contemplative
Practice- 58

ISBN 978-3-11-025924-7
e-ISBN 978-3-11-025925-4
ISSN 1861-8030
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress.

Brigitte Weingart
Contact at a Distance
The Topology of Fascination- 72
Beate Sontgen
Chardin: Inwardness - Emotion - Communication -101

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;
detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at

2014 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Typesetting: Meta Systems Publishing & Printservices GmbH, Wustermark
Cover image: Gail Albert Halaban
Printing: CPI books GmbH, Leek
El Printed on acid-free paper
Printed in Germany

II. Interiority/Exteriority:
Thinking and Writing Emotion
Bernhard Greiner
" ... that until now, the inner world of man has been given ... such
unimaginative treatment"
Constructions of Interiority around 1800 -137

vi -


julia Weber
Mediating Interiority in E. T. A. Hoffmann's Rat Krespel-172
Rainer Nagele
Keller's Cellar Vaults
Intrusions of the Real in Gottfried Keller's Realism -187

Rudiger Campe and Julia Weber

Rethinking Emotion: Moving beyond

An Introduction
[Literary] criticism stands under the aegis of an inside/outside metaphor
that is never being seriously questioned.

Daniel Cuonz
Toward a Genealogy of the Internalized Human Being
Nietzsche on the Emotion of Guilt- 202
Claudia Brodsky
"The Real Horizon" (beyond Emotions)
What Proust (Wordsworth, Rousseau, Diderot, and Hegel) Had 'in'

Ill. Thinking beyond Interiority:

Reconceptualizing Emotion after the Great Dichotomy
Bernhard Waldenfels
The Role of the Lived-Body in Feeling- 245
Hermann Kappelhoff
Artificial Emotions
Melodramatic Practices of Shared Interiority- 264
David Freedberg
Feelings on Faces
From Physiognomies to Neuroscience- 289
joel Krueger
Emotions and Other Minds- 324
Rebekka Hufendiek
Locating Emotions between Body, Mind, and World- 351

Notes on Contributors- 381

Paul de Man I

Nichts ist drinnen, nichts ist draufien:

Denn was innen das ist aufien.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 2

Questions, perspectives, claims

The notion of interiority and its central role in our understanding of emotional
life and individuality are phenomena that belong to classical Western modernity. From antiquity to early modernity, affects or passions were mostly conceived of either as external physiological forces that act on a passive subject
and provoke it to engage in certain actions or as scene-like situations in which
the affected person responds to an ensemble of other actors under specific
circumstances. Not until the turn of the eighteenth century were emotions
located within the subject as an important category that crystallized, together
with other elements of psychic life, to form the core of individuality. In conjunction with sensation, feeling, and thinking, emotions began to form what
in German is called Innerlichkeit 3 - a neologism that marks a programmatic
distinction of the "inner world" or "interiority" of a person from the "outside
1 De Man, Paul. "Semiology and Rhetoric." Paul de Man. Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979. 3-19,
here 5.
2 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. "Epirrhema." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Siimtliche Werke.
Briefe, Tagebilcher und Gespriiche. Part 1: Siimtliche Werke. Vol. 2: Gedichte 1800-1832. Ed.
Karl Eibl. Frankfurt: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1988. 498. I "No thing's inside, outside neither: I In is out and both are either." (Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. "Epirrhema." Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe. Selected Poems. Trans. John Whaley. Evanston: Northwestern University
Press, 1998. 127.)
3 See the entry "lnnerlichkeit" by Renate von Heyde brand. Historisches Wiirterbuch der Philosophie. Ed. Joachim Ritter and Karlfried Grunder. Basel: Schwabe, 1976. Vol. 4. 386-388.
According to Heydebrand, the word Innerlichkeit is first used by Klopstock in 1779. Taken up

The Art of Prayer -

Niklaus Largier

The Art of Prayer

Conversions of Interiority and Exteriority in Medieval
Contemplative Practice
A large number of medieval religious and philosophical texts seem to draw a
strict - albeit philosophically nuanced - line between "inner man" and "outer
man," homo interior and homo exterior. Thus they suggest that a clear distinction should be made between the 'interior' and 'spiritual' on the one hand,
and the 'exterior,' 'material,' and 'sensual' on the other hand. In the words
of Isidor of Sevilla's Etymologies: "Human beings have two aspects: the interior
and the exterior. The interior human is the soul [and] the exterior is the body."
While this distinction is valid and often constitutive for religious anthropology
in many theoretical contexts throughout the Middle Ages, it is less stable in
the realm of medieval practices of prayer and meditation. Where theories of
religious anthropology seem to propose an opposition between interior and
exterior in post-lapsarian human existence, practices of prayer formulate a
dynamic relationship where 'interior' and 'exterior' turn into aspects of a process of communication, conversion, and transformation. In this process,
'inner' feelings and sensations are not only induced through 'outer' means.
Instead, the 'inner' turns into a form of mediation of the 'outer' and the 'outer'
into a form of mediation of the 'inner,' making both part of the production of
experiential events in spiritual practice. Such experiential events are produced
with the help of rhetorical stimuli and artifacts, transforming sets and arrange3
ments of stimuli in turn into spaces and places of aesthetic pleasure with a
1 Lombardus, Petrus. Sententiae in IV Iibris distinctae. Grottaferrata: Ed. Collegii S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 1971. II, dist. XXIV, cap. 5; O'Callaghan, John P. "Imago Dei: A Test
Case for St. Thomas's Augustinianism." Thomas the Augustinian. Ed. Michael Daupinais. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2007. 100-144. For a historical overview, see also
Schnell, Rudiger. "Wer sieht das Unsichtbare? Homo exterior und homo interior in monastischen und laikalen Erziehungsschriften." Anima und sele. Darstellungen und Systematisierungen von Seele im Mittelalter. Ed. Katharina Philipowski and Anne Prior. Berlin: Schmidt, 2006.
83-112 (with a large body of references).
2 Seville, Isidore of. The 'Etymologies' of Isidore of Seville. Ed. and trans. Stephen A. Barney

et a!. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. XI, 231.

3 I am building in this essay on a couple of earlier publications, drawing on materials that I
have presented and analyzed more comprehensively before: "Inner Senses - Outer Senses:
The Practice of Emotions in Medieval Mysticism." Codierung von Emotionen im Mittelalter. I
Emotions and Sensibilities in the Middle Ages. Ed. Stephen C. Jaeger and Ingrid Kasten. Berlin,
New York: De Gruyter, 2003. 3-15; "Die Applikation der Sinne. Mittelalterliche Asthetik als


dense texture of emotional and sensual intensi 4

worlds take shape together a d

ty. Thus, mtenor and exterior
n converge m forms of rel' .
experience within specific spatial configurations - includt:~o: a; aefsthetic
ory, the space of the church, the cell and a b d
ea ers o memTh v; .
roa range of other spaces
.e zszons of the thirteenth century beguine HadewiJ' ch of A tw .
n erp - to
name JUSt one exampl
illustrate this in an ex::;~mgw:a~~oth~rs that could be introduced herediscuss in the followin
ry y. ~~wmg on the practices of prayer I will
h . .
. g ?ages, HadeWlJCh presents us with texts that situate
:~ VlSIO~ary expenence m complex settings of liturgy, song and place 6 Th
vtstons, am arguing here, are neither 'outer' nor 'inn ;
experiential events that take place in s 'fi
er. Instead, they are
pect tc matenallocations wh
expenence and 'external' stimulation conver e in f
ere mner
spiritual and that conflates the
VlSIOns fill both the space of the church and of HadeWlJC
.. h' s tmagmatton:
. . . us, t e


distinctio~ 'i:n:~a~;~~~t~~~hT~ater~l

On a certain Pentecost Sunday I had a VIsion

. . at dawn Matins
b .
church, and I was present My heart d
were emg sung in the
an mydve~ns and all my limbs trembled and quivered with eager desire and. as oft
en occurre with me
mind that it seemed to me I did not contend
, sue rna ness and fear beset my
fulfill my desire, so that dying I
my Belov:d, and that my Beloved did not
mus go mad, and gomg mad I mu t d' 0
my mind was beset so fearfully and so painfull b d .
s Ie. n that day
veins were in travail. The longing in wh h I h y y esirous love that all my separate
t en was cannot be expressed by any Ian-

Phanomenologie rhetorischer Effekte." Das fremde Sch..

der Literatur des Mittelalters Ed M
one. Dlmenswnen des Asthetischen in
anue raun and Christopher y
B r
Gruyter, 2007. 43-60; "Medieval Christian M f .
oung. er m, New York: De
Emotion. Ed. John Corrigan Oxford Oxford Uy~ ICI~m. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and
mversity Press 2008 364 379 "P . b
; raymg y Numbers: An Essay on Medieval Aesthef " R
epresentations 104 (2008), special issue On Form:
4 One of the backgrounds of these constructio
the traditions and practices of mnem t h . nCsf o spatial arrangements is to be found in
S d
o ec mcs. . Carruthers Mary Th B k M
tu y of Memory in Medieval Culture C b .d
. e oo OJ emory: A
thers, Mary. The Craft of Thought Me~t at~ nRhge: C.ambndge University Press, 1990; Carru1 a wn,

etonc, and the Making I

OJ mages. Cambndge:
cambndge University Press, 2000 .
5 Hadewijch. "Visions." Hadewijch. The Com lete
Paulist Press, 1980. 259-305.
Works. Trans. Columba Hart. New York:
6 Compare the observation of Cipriano Va
will discuss below) "The Legat
d h gag~mi about Gertrude of Helfta's works (which I

us an t e Exerc1ses are
expression, entirely imbued with th l't
, even m eu composition and literary
passages liturgical in their re . . e I urgy y reason of their being strewn throughout with
mm1scences. This is so much th
parts of the Exercises, the work takes on the a
e case t at, especially in some
from Scripture, and the latter itself ofte
p~earan.ce of ~ cento made up from liturgy and
gini, Cipriano Theologz'cal Dl'
n enoug commg to It by way of the liturgy." (VagagL'

menswns of the Liturgy Tr

. ans. eonar J. Doyle. Collegeville:
Iturgical Press, 1976. 742.)

60 -

The Art of Prayer -

Niklaus Largier

guage or any person I know; and everything I could say about it would be unheard-of to
all those who never apprehended Love as something to work for with desire, and whom
Love had never acknowledged as hers. I can say this about it: I desired to have full
fruition of my Beloved, and to understand and taste him to the full. I desired that his
Humanity should to the fullest extent be one in fruition with my humanity, and that mine
then should hold its stand and be strong enough to enter into perfection until I content
him, who is perfection in itself, by purity and unity, and in all things to content him fully
in every virtue.?

What follows is a visionary, however deeply corporeal and sensual encounter

with the desired "Beloved" in the church during mass. It is an encounter where
interiority and exteriority - Christ's human and divine nature, Hadewijch's
human and spiritual nature - converge in a series of sensual and affective
experiential events. These events mirror an experience where rhetorical stimuli - words of the liturgy, words from the scriptures, images from the Song of
Songs, echoes of chants, reflections of the space of the church - unfold into an
evocation of a broad range of sensual and emotional qualities. As Hadewijch's
introductory words show, it would be wrong to read this experience in terms
of an 'outer' sphere that mirrors an 'inner' experience - as it would be wrong
to read it in terms of an 'inner' sphere mirroring an 'outer' one. Instead, we
might want to speak of experiential events and of processes of translation, or,
more precisely, of translations of scriptural memory into liturgical and spatial
arrangements and into an experiential state of communication with the divine
in space and time - and thus in a realm where a distinction of interiority and
exteriority becomes meaningless. Or, in Hadewijch's description of what she
experienced at church during mass:
[... ]looking like a Human Being and a Man, wonderful, and beautiful, and with glorious
face, he came to me as humbly as anyone who wholly belongs to another. Then he gave
himself to me in the shape of the Sacrament, in its outward form, as the custom is; and
then he gave me to drink from the chalice, in form and taste, as the custom is. After that
he came himself to me, took me entirely in his arms, and pressed me to him; and all my
members felt his in full felicity, in accordance with the desire of my heart and humanity.
So I was outwardly satisfied and fully transported. Also then, for a-short while, I had the
strength to bear this; but soon, after a short time, I lost that manly beauty outwardly in
the sight of his form. I saw him completely come to naught and so fade and all at once
dissolve that I could no longer distinguish him within me. Then it was to me as if we
were one without difference. It was thus: outwardly, to see, taste, and feel, as one can
outwardly taste, see, and feel in the reception of the outward Sacrament. So can the
Beloved, with the loved one, each wholly receive the other in all full satisfaction of the
sight, the hearing, and the passing away of the one in the other.

7 Hadewijch, "Visions," 280.

8 Hadewijch, "Visions," 281-282.



As I will show, we deal here not with what the moderns _ after Feuerbach and
Freud - call 'p~ojections' but ~th forms of experience that are consciously
prod~ced by artifacts, by texts, Images, and music in close correspondence with
~he hturgy and ~he ~pace ~f the church. These forms of experience are qualified
m t:rms not pn~anly of mtellectual cognition and they are articulated on the
basis of a strong mcarnational theology that informs the process of perception.
!hey are, ho':ever: acknowledged and lived - beyond conceptual language _
m forms of az~theszs or colJr!itio experimentalis,9 experiential cognition, experience of sensatiOn and emotlon, sensual or emotional pleasure or disturbance
'Swe:t' or. 'bitter,' to give a rough idea, are the most obvious qualifiers th~t
are used m this context, both in the case of emotion and sensation. and both _
'sweet'. as well as 'bitter' - are drawn from the scriptures and th~ memory of
the scnptures. These terms, though, are not used in the form of a meta h I

f ,.
p onca
o, . mner' spiritual experience . They are not to be rea d as a11egones

of an mner hfe. Instead, they are deployed as figures that are drawn f

1 h"
rom a
scnptura . arc tve and that serve a phenomenology of rhetorical effects where
the expenence of swe:tness is as much 'outside' as it is 'inside.' Such figures
become part. of strategies of rhetorical amplification that take place in a concrete
space and tlme where 'inner' and 'outer' converge and where the experience
that emerges no longer allows for a distinction between the two. Instead th
'outer' turns into a medium of the 'inner,' allowing for its very constructi~n a:
~ space of experience, and the 'inner' turns into a medium of the 'outer,' allowmg for the deployment of the rhetorical effects in form of a phenomenology of
affects and sensation.

The rhetoric of prayer, sensation, and affect

I~ ~he fir~t ch~pter of the thirteenth century The Herald of Divine Love (Legatus
dzvmae pzetatzs ), we read the following characterization of the Cistercian nun
Gertrude of Helfta:

She spoke so sweetly and with such penetrating intelligence, using such eloquent langua~e; her words were so persuasive, effective, and gracious that many who heard her
feelmg. the marve~ous w~y in which their hearts were moved and their wills changed:
bo~e "":tness that It was m truth the Spirit of God who spoke in her; for it was the living
efficacious word, mo~~ penetrating than any two-edged sword, reaching the very division
between soul and spmt (Heb. 4:12) which dwelt in her and worked all this.lO

9 See Largier, "Inner Senses - Outer Senses."

10 Helfta, Gertrude of. The Herald of Divine Love. Ed. and trans. Margaret Winkworth New
York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1993. 54.

The Art of Prayer -

62 -


Niklaus Largier

b d on a specific
elo uently and persuasive1Y IS ase
nin that the text explains with a referThis very ability to speak . q_
form of rhetoric and expenentlallear . g v t 's) - in fact Richard of Saint
ence to "Master Hugh's" (Hugh of Samt IC or
Victor's - teachings:
ood by the human intellect except
. . 1 things cannot b e un der St
b d"l
But as invisible and spmtua
lothe them in human and o I y

it is necessary o c
. .
. th sxteenth chapter of hzs dzscourse
in visible and corporea zmages,
forms. This is what Master Hugh demonstrates m e I
th" 1 er world and to come down to the level
on "The Inner Man":
familiar to IS ow
d hi
"In order to refer tothi ngs
b means of visible forms, an t s
ture descnbes t mgs Y
of human weakness, Hoy cnp . .
of beautiful images whzch exci e
. . r spmtualzdeas y means
impresses on our zmagma zon
fl .
"zth milk and honey, now of owers
of a land owmg w
. h"
our desires. Thus they spea now
d f the chorus of the birds, and m t Is
ngsofmenan o
and of perfumes, now o e so
d .
ted Read the Apocalypse of St. Jo n

f heaven are eszgna

. d
way the joys and harmomes o
d . h ld and silver and pearls and other km s
and you will find jerusalem orname~te WI~- go f this sort in heaven where, however,
of gems. Now we know that there IS not ~ng o_ t be found there materially, all are
. . lackz"ng But if none of these thmgs IS o
noth mg zs

there spiritually."

f llows Richard of Saint Victor's teachWith these words, Gertrude of Helft~ o .

d exterior his observation "that
ings about the relationship between mtenfor an f terio~ity" and that "affect
. "t d pends on a orm o ex
1 th world of nature and the
the culture of intenori y e
"d b tween body and sou ' e
provides the b n ge e
. . C t , 12 Thus imagination, affect,
1 "oins with Its rea or.
1 to transcendent experience" but as
interior realm where sou l
and sensation are not seen as obstacles\ t"on "13
t of spiritua e eva I
of Saint Victor, On the Power of Prayer
"indispensable I~strumen s
A short treatise on prayer by Hugh f the practice of prayer that emerges.
lains the nature o
(De virtute oran dz ' exp
H h 1 demonstrates in his treatise,
f ons As ug a so
on the basis of these o serva I . .
d b hetorical tradition and training,
h" ghly mforme Y r
h t t quoted above ascribes to Gerthis practice of prayer IS I .
reflecting the force of persuasion that t e ex
trude's words as well.
"t tio and infiammatio- ultimately
Prayer, meant to lead into a state ob excbz. a love that is akin to the one
. t nse and a sor mg
of an overwhelmmg, m e '
. .
. first and foremost an art o
Hadewijch is talking about in her VISIOn - IS
. .
ffre Hamburger identifies Gertrude's so~rc_e.
11 Helfta, The Herald of Dzvme Love, 54-~5- J:
Cf Hamburger Jeffrey. "Idol Cunoszty.
tv tor's Ben]amm mmor.
chapter 15 of Richard of Sam .. IC .
. de in Mittelalter und friiher Neuzeit. Ed.
. "t s Welterfahrung
und asthetzsche Neug~er
Cunosz a
here 38-42.
Kruger. Gottingen: Wallstem, 2002. 19-58,
12 Hamburger, "Idol Curiosity," 40-41.
13 Hamburger, "Idol Curiosity," 41.


arousing affects and emotions: "Pure prayer is when from an abundance of

devotion the mind is so enkindled that when it turns to ask something of God
it forgets even its petition because of the greatness of His love." 14 Pure prayer
is prayer that forgets its own intention. It does so when it turns into a spiritual
exercise that moves from reading to meditation, from the deployment of meaning in forms of unexcited reading and understanding to affective and sensual
intensity in meditation. In order to produce this effect, in order to produce
affective excitatio, Hugh writes, the reader of the scriptures and the person
who prays has to engage in "frequens cogitatio," in repeated mental re-evocation of the words he wants to concentrate on. He or she does so in a kind of
rumination and mastication of these words that brings forth the possibilities
of their emotional and sensual impact.
Rhetorical practices of figuration and amplification comprise the very
basis of this meditative exercise. At first the process simply consists in invention and enumeration, in the search for figures, the construction of lists, the
use of repetition and rhetorical questions, and the configuration of tropes
drawn from the scriptures, from life experience, from lives of saints and martyrs, from memory, and from other available sources. The very construction of
such lists presents the soul with a picture, with a series of figures that all have
a specific effect on perception, on affect and sensation. These effects have to
be further amplified through repetition, rhetorical questions, and elements of
narration and narrative scripts that help to unfold the power of the figures.
Thus, for example, a list of pains and the enumeration of all possible evils
asks for an imaginative exercise in which such figures are produced on a stage
that allows for the deployment of their affective force. 15 This stage can be
purely mental but it can also include images and objects. In both cases its
construction implies a moment of exteriorization and spatial arrangement that
allows for the effects to unfold.
The more impressive and comprehensive the list, the more the soul will
sigh, groan, and suffer in this act of animation that produces a space of affective intensity. Other lists and figural compositions - often in combination with
narrative scripts, for example the Song of Songs or the passion of Christ - allow
for the production of different affects: admiration and pleasure, humility and
humiliation, terror and fear, devotion, dedication, and hope.
In other words, the exercise of meditation presupposes complex practices
of figuration and rhetorical amplification, which allow for the production of a

14 Saint Victor, Hugh of. "On the Power of Prayer." Trans. Hugh Feiss. Writings on the Spiritual Life: A Selection of Works of Hugh, Adam, Achard, Richard, Walter, and Godfrey of St. Victor.
Ed. Christopher P. Evans. Turnhout: Brepols, 2013. 331-347, here 334 (7.4).
15 Hugh, "On the Power of Prayer," 331-332 (2-3).

64 -

The Art of Prayer -

Niklaus Largier

broad range of affects. These practices of figuration are based on archives

including the scriptures, lives of saints, and other material. In their deployment, however, they transcend the limiting scope of the archive and the meaning they have therein. Consequently, Hugh emphasizes strategies that strip
the figures from the concrete literal meaning within the archive and from the
intention-bound nature of prayer. Extracted from the archive, liberated from
their immediate context and from intentions, the deployment of the figures
and tropes serves nothing else than the production of an affective and sensual
space that is open to divine love and that thus constitutes an affective texture
of scriptural tropes, actual experience, and praegustatio, an eschatological
foretaste of things to come.
The process of the production of this sphere of religious and aesthetic
experience must first be described in terms of externalization. As Hadewijch,
Gertrude, and Hugh write - in accordance with traditions of negative theology-, god and his realm are beyond language and concepts. In order to communicate with god, affective and sensual forms of meditative prayer focus on
a use of tropes that treats them not only as images provided by the biblical
text but as artifacts that can be used in specific ways not in order to represent
the divine but in order to produce the absorption in the affect. Thus, words
and tropes drawn from the scriptures turn into sets of rhetorical stimuli that
can be deployed in the form of material figures, for example, words, images,
and song. This externalization implies a non-hermeneutical approach to the
tropes, an approach that in the very act of prayer strips the words of their '
representational and intentional nature and that liberates them in view of their
affective and sensual effects. 16 Thus, they turn into staged external actors and
help to produce a sphere of experience in between the 'inner' and the 'outer,'
where the soul transcends itself and its interiority in the act of being absorbed
into the overwhelming love that all the practices of figuration in prayer intend
to produce. With the help of the externalized figures, the soul alienates itself
from its mundanely-defined and 'old' identity and interiority, choosing a state
of exile that allows for the creation of a 'new' state beyond the distinction of
'inner' and 'outer.' It is this state that the rhetorical figures are meant to produce and explore.


Experimental figuration and the phenomenology

of rhetorical effects
As ~u~h points o~t in his treatise on prayer, "there are countless feelings"
and I~ IS not possible to "list them all.''l? The same could be said about the
expenence of sensation in spiritual practice. Introduced in Origen's and Gregory_ of Nyssa's ex~gesis of the Song of Songs, the connection of contemplative
readmg and sensation has played a key role in the history of medieval spiritual
practices.l 8 It is in this context that we encounter the most elaborate tho ht
ug s
abou t th e Ive mner senses.'' These 'inner' senses , h owever, are not JUst

o~p?se~ to the 'outer' senses in a kind of spatial correlation. Instead, the

distmctwn between 'inner' and 'outer' has to be unders too d m
terms of a
pheno~enology of s~nsation. This phenomenology operates with the two
term~ m order not _to mdicate two different realms of sensation but two differe~t km~s of sensa~w_n. The 'outer' kind is seen as unfree and empirically determmed msofar as It IS caught up in the world of fallen nature and objects of
desire. The 'inner' kind is seen as a path of liberation in view of a stimulation
of se~ses and affects that originates in the hidden meaning of the scriptures,
that IS enact:d ~n the rhetoric of prayer, and that allows for an anticipation
and the restitution of free sensation at the end of time. In the Late Middle
Ages, Peter of Ailly expresses this anticipation in the following way: "to reach
already in this li_fe the pleasures of the eternal rewards in an experiential way,
and. to taste theu sweetness with delight ."19 Rudolf of BI"berach , m
a treatise

entitle~ The Seven Paths of Eternity (De septem itineribus aetemitatis), uses the
followmg words, largely inspired by Aicher and Bernhard of Clairvaux's Hu h
of Saint Victor's, and Saint Bonaventure's treatment of the inner s'en g .
h .
reac mg t e mner sense of taste, it opens it up toward the tasting of eternal
sweetness." 20
. In other ':'ords, _the _"inner senses" are the senses insofar as they are recept~ve t~ a mampulatw_n m the practices of reading and prayer. This manipulah~n liberates sensation from its empirical bounds, replaces natural stimuli
With rhetorical ones, and leads to an absorption in divine taste and touch that

~~ Hugh, "On the Power of Prayer," 340-341 (14.1).

S~e Largier, "Inner Senses- Outer Senses" (with references).

16 Hugh, "On the Power of Prayer," 335 (7.5): "That form of supplication which occurs only

through nouns is as full of an inner abundance of love as it is imperfect in external expression.

For feeling has this property: the greater and more fervent it is within, the less it can be
displayed outwardly in words."

34 1

~ A1:~Y Peter of. "Compend_ium contemplationis." Peter of Ailly. Opuscula spiritualia. Douai
' 11, 134 (my translatiOn).

. '
o e septem ztinenbus aeternitatis. Ed. Margot Schmidt. Stuttgart, Bad
statt. Frommann-Holzboog, 1985. "De sexto itinere," dist. V (my translation).

66 -

Niklaus Largier

is neither 'inner' nor 'outer.' 21 As the affects can be aroused, shaped, and
modified with the help of rhetorical stimuli and artifacts, so can sensation touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting - be aroused, shaped, and modified by rhetorical stimuli. Thus, Origen's and Gregory of Nyssa's theories of
the inner senses, developed in the context of questions of reading and hermeneutics, form the framework for a phenomenological understanding of sensation in the Middle Ages. This phenomenological understanding, however,
focuses not on a primary level of experiential qualities and events but on the
experiential qualities that are induced by the scriptures, by scriptural tropes,
and - as in the case of Gertrude and Hadewijch - by the liturgy. This is the
reason why I am speaking of a phenomenology of rhetorical effects. What
Hugh's theory of prayer and Gertrude's and Hadewijch's visions present us
with are ways in which scriptural tropes are being deployed in order to excite
affects and sensation. They also present us with a phenomenological description of the ways in which the deployment of these tropes produce specific
spheres and events of experience in an application of the senses.
It is the Song of Songs that is often used as a blueprint for the application
of the senses. It provides us with something we could call a dramatic script,
and medieval authors draw on this script both in view of quotes that serve to
evoke specific moments of sensation and affect, and in view of a paradigmatic
model that allows for a dramatization of memory, of sense experience, and of
concomitant emotional states. We know from the re-writing of the Song of
Songs and from complex prayer texts, for example in Mechthild's Flowing Light
of the Godhead, and from the use Mechthild makes of it as a blueprint for the
staging of the life of her soul, that her rumination on this text not only produces sweetness and delight, but also bitterness and desolation. In other words,
her practice of prayer and the aisthesis she produces include more than an
evocation of feelings of divine sweetness. Instead, she deploys the tropes in a
dramatic way, following certain scripts and evoking a diverse range of possible
experience. Thus, prayer serves as a means to explore the realm of possible
sensual experience and to intensify or amplify it. Mechthild uses the Song of
Songs as a dramatic script that can be amplified and rewritten and that allows
for a rich staging of moments of sensation and emotional arousal. In doing
this, some writers, above all Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch of Ant21 Nyssa, Gregory of. In canticum canticorum. Ed. Hermannus Langerbeck. Leiden: Nrill, 1960.
425-426; Herp, Hendrik. Directorium aureum contemplativorum. I Directorio de contemplativos.
Ed. Juan Martin Kelly. Madrid: Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, Fundaci6n Universitaria
Espanola, 1974. II, 54, 647-649; Herp, Hendrik. Theologia mystica. Farnborough: Gregg, 1965.
II, 54, 169. See also: Largier, Niklaus. "Tactus. Le sens du toucher et la volupte au Moyen
Age." Micrologus 13 (2004): 233-249, esp. 211-215.

The Art of Prayer -


werp, combine the text of the Song of Songs with elements taken from contemporary love ~oetry. in audacious ways, amplifying further the impact of the
text and playmg wzth the aesthetics of sweetness in minnesong and in a religious context. In exploring a broad range of possible affects and sensations,
they move fr?m the experiential practice that Hugh depicts to a more experimental practice that allows for multiple forms of play with rhetorical stimuli.
Two other sc~ipts have played a major role in monastic contemplation and
s_erv~d as blue~nnts for specific forms of the application of the senses. The
flfst zs the creatiOn narrative, the Hexameron. The second one is the legend of
the t~mptation of Saint Anthony. Two twelfth century texts, On the Fourfold
Exerczse of the Cell (De qu~dripertito exercitio cellae) by Adam of Dryburgh
(Ada.~ Scotus) _and ~aldum of Canterbury's On the Twofold Resurrection (De
duplzcz :esurre.ctione) 3 can illustrate this in exemplary ways. Both texts
emphaszze agam - as does Hugh of Saint Victor - that prayer in the cell cannot
be a form of prayer that asks for something or prayer that could be seen as a
gesture of petitioning. Rather, they both point out that prayer has to be understood as a technique that puts the soul in a position in which it can be touched
by the tex~ and artifacts, that is, a technique that makes the soul receptive to
the rhetoncal effects of emotional and sensual arousal. Balduin's notion of a
t\:ofold resurrection refers to the fact that "ordinary people" can be content
wzth the resurrection and the experience of the paradise at the end of time.
Monks however, he writes, are familiar with the practice of evoking this experience as an actual state of emotional and sensual perception.24 In this context
he invokes musical imagery, imagining the soul as a musical instrument tha~
~esonates (a psaltherium or cithara) and the senses as the cords that are put
m moveme~t through the ~se that is made of the biblical text in prayer and
c~ntemplatwn. Thus, speczfic quotes from the creation narrative are used to
s_timulate the ~en~es, to produce moments of sensation which must be qualifzed as aesthe~zc s~nce they are in fact nothing other than the sense experience
of the world m hght of redemption. The words Adam and Balduin use are
stupor and admiratio, expressing the translation of the creation narrative into
phen~mena of overwhelming sensual and affective experience. Paradoxically,
w_e mzght want to add, all this happens in the solitude of the cell where the
direct empirical experience of the world is being replaced by this art of aes-


Dry.burgh, ~dam of. "De quadripertito exercitio cellae." Patrologia Latina. Ed. JacquesPaul M1gne. Pans: Migne, 1854. Vol. 153. 799-884.

~ Canter~ury, Balduin of. "De duplici resurrectione." Patrologia Latina. Ed. Jacques-Paul
Migne. Pans: Migne, 1855. Vol. 204. 429-442.
24 Canterbury "De d I"

up ICI resurrect10ne, 429: "Simple mortals are satisfied with one resurrectiOn. We, however, are not satisfied with one resurrection." (My translation.)

68 -

Niklaus Largier

thetic animation and by the artificial reconfiguration of an original beauty of

However, as all monks since the desert fathers knew, this intense experience is not unproblematic. There is no pure sweetness even in the life of the
cell, and wherever pure sweetness appears there has to be the suspicion that
it has its origin not in the divine but in the demon who disguises himself. This
tension is in most cases evoked through the third script I mentioned, namely
the model of the life of Saint Anthony, especially the scenes of his temptation.
This model, too, serves as a blueprint, on the one hand for a dramatization of
the sensation that is produced, on the other hand for a neverending process
of purification in light of a discernment of the spirits. 25 Each moment of sensation and emotional intensity has to be evaluated and justified, that is, each
moment of sensation is in itself the place of a drama where the good has to
confront the evil and where the exemplary scenario of discernment, the life of
Saint Anthony, has to be enacted. In other words - and this is maybe the most
important aspect of the significance of the life of Saint Anthony in medieval
monastic life - each moment of sensation has to be confronted by its demonic
other, which has to be actively evoked as well. Each moment of meditation
turns thus into a scene of martyrdom, evoking not only the sensation of consolation, but also of the demons in disguise. Thus, the model of aisthesis that
we encounter here not only produces a world of sweetness in the cell, but also
a world of terror and an aesthetics of terror and disfiguration. It is the aesthetics of terror that we will encounter not only in the texts, but also in the paintings of late medieval and early modern artists who deal with the topic of the
temptation of Saint Anthony. The drama that we encounter in these texts and
images is not just an allegory of temptation, but the drama that unfolds necessarily in the logic of the application and the rhetorical stimulation of the
senses as it was introduced by Origen and others.

Convergences of 'inner' and 'outer'

As I am arguing here, medieval practices of meditation and contemplation
confuse models of religious anthropology that operate with a clear distinction
of inner and outer, internal and external, spiritual and material man. As David
of Augsburg puts it in his treatise The Seven Steps of Prayer, prayer is the
25 I am drawing here on more comprehensive interpretations of the scenario of Saint Anthony
in Largier, "Praying by Numbers," and Largier, Niklaus. Die Kunst des Begehrens: Dekadenz,
Sinnlichkeit und Askese. Munich: Beck, 2007.

The Art of Prayer -


very "knocking" on heaven's doors (quoting the "knocking at the door" from
Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9):
When he tells us to pray, God does not mean that we should tell him with our words
what we wish, since he anyway already knows what we need before we ask him for it.
He rather means that we should knock. Through knocking we experience how sweet and
good he is and thus we love him and join him in love and become one spirit with him.26

This is David's explanation of the act of "rumination," the practice that not
only remembers the scriptures but translates the very act of remembering into
an act of intense affective and sensual experientia, or, in other words, the very
act that deploys the rhetorical effects of the words in order to animate the
scriptures in a convergence of inner and outer worlds.
As I have shown, these inner and outer worlds stand not in opposition to
each other but in a complex relation of mediation. In order to evoke both the
inner or spiritual sense of the scriptures and the inner or spiritual experiential
possibilities of man, all the 'inner' (that which does not yet exist as a matter
of experience) has to be turned into the 'outer.' It has to take shape in the
form of material figurations - words, images, artifacts - that are able to produce their effects beyond conceptual language and understanding. Thus, they
constitute a world of experience - a world of experience that takes shape, as
Hadewijch shows, not in the form of an 'inner' experience but rather in the
form of an experience that is both internal and external at the same time. In
the absorbing power of the experiential event, it is liberated from the constrictions of both the internal and the external, and it constitutes a world of intensity that is equally material and spiritual, corporeal and free. In Hadewijch's
description of this experience, the material, informed by the scriptural tropes
and scripts she enacts, turns spiritual and the spiritual, drawn into the material form of its liturgical enactment, turns material. In other words, her art of
prayer infects the world she sees as well as the stable distinctions of inner and
outer, and makes this very distinction collapse in a moment of overwhelming
absorption. In doing so, however, she develops - together with a range of
other medieval authors - a technique of sensual and emotional stimulation
that evokes and creates a world of emotions and sensations that is full of
possibilities. They emerge in the practice of prayer, a practice that makes the
external into the medium for the evocation and production of the internal,
and the internal into a medium for the experiential intensity of the external.

26 Augsburg, David of. "Septem gradus orationis." Published in: Heerinckx, Jacques. "Le
Septem gradus orationis de David d'Augsbourg." Revue d'ascetique et de mystique 14 (1933):
146-170, here 161 (my translation).


The Art of Prayer

Niklaus Largier

And as a practice of prayer it is always in suspense, in a state of exploration,

and on the move in between the internal and the external, creating ever new
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