Surfaces of Interiority: the folds in the soul, by Tolulope Onabolu

The voice embraced me with an unheard-of wonder, and I swooned in it, and my spirit failed me to see or hear more. And I lay in this fruition half an hour; but then the night was over, and I came back, piteously lamenting my exile, as I have done all this winter. For truly the whole winter long I have been occupied with this kind of thing. I lay there a long time and possessed love, or revelations, or anything else in particular that Love gave me.

Hadewijch, The Bride in the City

In this hour was revealed to me a new heaven, which never appeared to me before, and the Allelujah song of the Seraphim.

Hadewijch, The Six-Winged Countenance

Bernini’s sculpture, The Ecstasy of St Teresa is arguable one of the more evocative images from the Baroque in the history of architecture. In Batailles’s Erotism, Teresa stands in as the subject of a desexualised eroticism in this rapturous moment captured by Bernini. A similar scenario is captured in text by Hadewijch, a Beguine. In Lacan’s seminar on Feminine Sexuality and on the limits of Love and Knowledge, it is Hadewijch, similar to Teresa whom he invokes in his discussion on the desexualised moment of ecstasy. What is therefore this link between the desexualised ecstatic and the moment of its representation? How does the inscription of Teresa into the Cornaro Chapel, in the Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome transcend profanation? What is it within religious experience that removes ecstasy from sexual enjoyment?

To answer these questions, this paper explores the sculptural composition of Bernini’s Teresa with reference to Bataille. Further, it explores some of the writings of Hadewijch, specifically the poems and visions where she experiences her soul open to her Saviour. The paper will argue that pleasure comes into architecture in excess of the apprehension and enjoyment of the architectural object; that something inarticulate presents itself in the milieu within which the architectural object is apprehended, and that only by simultaneously approaching and suspending the moment of ecstasy is it possible for pleasure to be experienced and sustained.

An obligation to enjoyment is a patent absurdity. The same thing must also be true of an alleged obligation in all actions that have mere enjoyment as their goal, however spiritually refined (or embellished) this may be, even if it were a mystical, so-called heavenly enjoyment

Kant, Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgement

Following Kant, the paper will conclude with the following assertion: that similar to the desexualised moment of ecstacy experienced by Teresa and Hadewijch, a subject’s experience of pleasure in apprehending architecture finds its locus on a surface of interiority beyond the mere enjoyment of the architectural object.

Tolulope Onabolu, Edinburgh University, UK

Harvard Citation Guide: Onabolu, T. (2012) Surfaces of Interiority: the folds in the soul, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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