Sarah Laursen

Asst Professor of History of Art & Arch; Curator, Asian Art

Phone: work802.443.5491
Fax: fax802-443-2827
Office Hours: Winter Term 2015- By appointment
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FYSE 1421 - Art of Storytelling      

The Art of Storytelling
Epic Asian tales such as India’s Bhagavad-Gita, Iran’s Shahnameh, and China’s Xiyouji have inspired artists for centuries and continue to capture the imaginations of comic book artists today. In this seminar we will delve into the Asian classics and their many painted, sculpted, and printed interpretations in order to understand why artists depicted these compelling narratives in such drastically different ways. In short papers, we will explore themes including racial identity, gender roles, and social hierarchies. For the final project students will create their own one-shot comic based on an Asian short story or folktale. 3 hrs. sem.


Fall 2014

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HARC 0248 - Gold/Sex/Death at the Museum      

Gold, Sex, and Death at the Museum
Most visitors to museums notice the architecture, carefully chosen collections, and meticulously curated special exhibitions. However, behind this façade is a busy network of museum professionals coordinating every aspect of the institution’s life. Through readings and guest lectures, we will explore how directors, curators, and staff navigate the challenges facing the modern museum, such as establishing acquisitions policies in an increasingly uncertain art market, defining ethical standards for conservation, and addressing audiences with ever-changing needs. Speakers such as a curator, art critic, and conservator will contribute to our discussion, and attendance at a series of public talks is required. 3 hrs. lect./disc.


Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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HARC 0270 - Chinese Art      

Chinese Art
This course is an introductory survey of the arts of China from the Neolithic period to the 20th century. Considering works in their original context and in museum collections, we will investigate how art objects and monuments reflect the religious beliefs, political agendas, and aesthetic preferences of their creators. At the same time, we will pay particular attention to the local development of artistic technologies, the role of ethnic and national identity in art production, and China's place in the larger histories of the Silk Road and modern international commerce and diplomacy. 3 hrs. lect.


Spring 2013, Spring 2015

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HARC 0271 - Funerary Arts of East Asia      

Funerary Arts of East Asia
What is the purpose of a tomb? How do its structure and décor convey ancient perceptions of death? Who are the occupants, and how did they envision their journey into the afterlife? This course is an introductory survey of the funerary arts of China, Korea, and Japan. By investigating tombs, shrines, sarcophagi, wall paintings, and grave goods throughout East Asia, we will gain a deeper understanding of ancient religions, social structures, ethnic identities, and cross-cultural interactions. Lectures will be supplemented by several visits to the Museum's Asian collections. 3 hrs. lect./disc.


Spring 2014

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HARC 0370 - How Asian Art is Made      

Potter, Painter, and Goldsmith: How Asian Art is Made
In this seminar we will explore the manner in which the distinctive artistic traditions of China, Korea, and Japan were shaped by the materials and techniques available to ancient craftsmen. Some of these technologies remained localized, while others—like porcelain and silk—went on to transform world history by fueling major export markets. Through observation of objects from the Middlebury Museum of Art, we will explore such questions as: How was Asian art made; Why was it made that way? What was its historical impact? Topics will include jade and other hardstones, bronze, textiles, ceramics, painting, lacquer, glass, and gold.


Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

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HARC 0510 - Advanced Studies      

Advanced Studies
Supervised independent work in art history. (Approval Required)

Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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HARC 0540 - Independent Museum Studies      

Supervised Independent Work in Museum Studies
This practicum builds upon the Museum Assistants Program (MAP), the hands-on museum education program at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. In MAP, the Curator of Education trains students to conduct tours of the Museum’s permanent collection and of special exhibitions for audiences of peers, school groups, and the general public. Combining service learning with the opportunity to both support and learn more about the arts, students gain expertise in public speaking, art history, and public programming. To register for this course students have completed two semesters of MAP. The class will culminate with a public presentation on a museum-related topic evaluated by a faculty member of the Department of History of Art & Architecture. (Approval required; HARC 0100 or HARC 0102, and two semesters of MAP)

Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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HARC 0710 - Qualifying Paper Research Sem.      

Qualifying Paper Research Seminar
In this course students will conceive, undertake research, and plan the organization of their senior qualifying papers in art history or senior museum studies projects. Seminar discussions and workshops will focus on research strategies, conventions in art historical writing, project design, and public presentation skills. (HARC 0301; Approval Required) 3 hr. sem.

Fall 2013

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HARC 0711 - Qualif. Paper/Resrch/Writing      

Qualifying Paper, Research, & Writing
This course is a continuation of HARC 0710 which consists of ongoing, supervised independent research with an advisor, plus organizing, writing, and presenting a qualifying paper, which will be due on a Friday, two weeks before the end of classes. (HARC 0301 and HARC 0710)

Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Winter 2015

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IGST 0704 - EAS Senior Thesis      

Latin American Studies Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014

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Ph.D., Chinese Art History, University of Pennsylvania, East Asian Languages &2011 Civilizations, Philadelphia, PA

“Leaves that Sway: Gold Xianbei Cap Ornaments from Northeast China” Committee: Dr. Nancy Steinhardt, Dr. Victor Mair, Dr. Annette Juliano

M.A., University of Pennsylvania, East Asian Languages & Civilizations, Philadelphia, PA2005

B.A., New York University, East Asian Studies and Art History, New York, NY2002


  Proficient: Mandarin Chinese French Italian

Reading Knowledge: Classical Chinese Japanese • Korean • German Portuguese Spanish


“Split Personalities in Northern Zhou Tombs: A Review of Mortuary Art in theSept., 2012 Northern Zhou China (557–581 CE): Visualization of Class, Role, and Cultural Identity, by Jui-man (Mandy) Wu,” DissertationReviews.org

“Caps and Crowns in East Asian Diplomacy”(under review)

“Art and Technology in a Chinese Gold Cicada Plaque,” co-authored with(under review) Donna Strahan of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum Experience

Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 

Harvard Art Museums, Department of the Registrar, Cambridge, MA

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asian Art Department, New York, NY

Brooklyn Museum of Art, Asian Art Department, New York, NY Assisted Chinese art curator in preparing for an exhibition of Chinese bronzes