Wondering at the Inhuman Gaze


Sean Dorrance Kelly. 2020. “Wondering at the Inhuman Gaze.” In Perception and the Inhuman Gaze, edited by Anya Daly. New York: Routledge.


The inhuman gaze, on at least one interpretation, is the gaze had by whatever is inhuman. Things are inhuman, but in an important sense so is God. In this paper I juxtapose the medieval understanding of the ground of being with a more familiar early 20th century understanding. Nicholas of Cusa, in the 15th century, proposed to use the apparently omnivoyant gaze of certain icons to help those under his care to experience the world as replete with the gaze of God. In Kafka’s work, by contrast, we meet a debased image of God, where he is presented as an alienated and estranged, but never dying, useless object. The point is not that either of these experiences is correct. It is instead that there is something extraordinary, something wonderful, in the possibility of such a radical transformation in human experience over the course of history.