Beauty appears to be a nice thing, complete with the rather tepid quality that the word nice has come to imply. But beauty is also linked with danger, uncertainly, and powerful passion. The “nice” dimension of beauty is underwhelmingly charismatic: the passionate dimension of beauty suggests charisma. This article looks at its tension between fearfulness and peaceful pleasure through the example of saintly bodies and their tendency both to draw our desire to know them, and thereby ourselves, and to repel us in their grotesque openness. Tapping the critical resources of Kant and Rilke as well as medieval hagiography, the article thinks through beauty as charismatic and uncharismatic.

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