About the Author: "Caryll Houselander (1901-1954) was a lay English artist who became one of the most popular Catholic spiritual writers of modern times. She shared a unique and mystical vision of Christianity and Catholic teachings through her writing. In 1944, The Reed of God, a collection of profound and lyrical essays about Mary, established Houselander as a respected modern spiritual writer in the tradition of Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila." [Amazon.com web site]
In Worlds Within, Elina Gertsman investigates the Shrine Madonnas, or Vierges ouvrantes—sculptures that conceal within their bodies complex carved and/or painted iconographies. The Shrine Madonna emerged in Europe at the end of the 1200s and reached a peak of popularity during the following three centuries. Gertsman argues that the appearance of these objects—predicated as they are on the dynamic of concealment, revelation, and fragmentation—points to the changing roles of vision and sensation in the complex, performative ways in which audiences were expected to engage with devotional images, both in public and in private. Worlds Within considers these fascinating sculptures in terms of the rhetoric of secrecy, the discourse of containment, and the tropes of unveiling. Gertsman demonstrates how the statues were associated with the processes of seeing and memory-making and how they functioned as instruments of revelatory knowledge and spiritual reformation in the context of late medieval European culture.