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Study Day

Study Day. Kataskopos: The 'view from above' in Western art and thought

Organised by the History of Art Department, University of Cambridge and the Centre for Medieval Literature, 3 March 2019

Kataskopos. The 'view from above' in Western art and thought. A study day of papers and discussion

Since antiquity, theologians, artists, poets and philosophers have engaged with the notion of an all-encompassing view of the world, a ‘view from above’, or what is often known as kataskopos (kata – downward; skopos – view, or target).  This topos or ‘spiritual exercise’ (as it was termed by Pierre Hadot) encapsulates a fundamental human urge: to see the world in toto, from beyond the confines of the body and geography.  It finds expression in medieval hagiographies and allegories, pre-renaissance theories of artistic perspective, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Goethe’s Faust, and in the works of Kant, and it continues to serve as an important metaphor in contemporary philosophies of science and ethics.

Yet despite its endurance, and the wide range of places it can be found, the notion of the ‘view from above’ has received little sustained scholarly discussion.  This workshop, hosted and funded by the Department of History of Art at Cambridge with additional support from the Centre for Medieval Literature, will explore its potential as a topic for interdisciplinary dialogue.  It brings together a group of speakers working in diverse subjects, whose papers will examine the ‘view from above’ from different angles, and in a wide variety of historical contexts.  The event promises to be a rich learning experience, and an opportunity to explore possibilities for future collaboration and research on this fascinating philosophical and artistic theme. 

We warmly welcome the participation of non-speakers, subject to an £8 admission fee (which includes lunch and refreshments).  Please email Anya Burgon,, or Robert Hawkins, to register for a place.

List of participants

  • Anya Burgon (Centre for Medieval Literature, University of York and University of Southern Denmark)
  • Rob Hawkins (Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge)
  • Nakul Krishna (Department of Philosophy, University of Cambridge)
  • Divna Manolova (Centre for Medieval Literature, University of York and University of Southern Denmark)
  • Nolwenn Mégard (Department of History of Art, University of Geneva)
  • Morgan Ng (Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles)
  • Tony Patrickson (Centre for Creative Arts and Media, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology)
  • David Zagoury (Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome)
Editing was completed: 22.03.2019