Cynthia Packert
Office
Mahaney Arts Center 123
Tel
(802) 443-5232
Email
cpackert@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
Fall Term 2022 & Winter 2023- On-Leave
Additional Programs
History of Art and Architectural Studies

Cynthia Packert is the Christian A. Johnson Professor in the History of Art and Architecture.  She teaches courses on all aspects of Asian and Islamic art, with a particular focus on India. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 1988, and has been teaching at Middlebury College since 1989. She is the author of The Sculpture of Medieval Rajasthan (E.J. Brill, 1997) and several articles on Indian art and iconography. Her research focuses on the visual culture of Hinduism, and she has also published The Art of Loving Krishna: Ornamentation and Devotion (Indiana University Press, 2010).  Her current project is focused on new Hindu temples in India and the North American diaspora, with special attention on the BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu community. 

Courses Taught

Course Description

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Gods, Goddesses, and Demons in Indian Art
Indian mythology and epic literature abound with stories of conflicts between the forces of good and evil. There are multiple forms of Hindu gods and goddesses who battle an array of evil and colorful demonic foes, and each cosmic battle embodies a profound philosophical lesson about relative values and complex moral choices. We will explore the meanings and myriad creative expressions of this rich terrain through a lively variety of artistic depictions—in mythological literature, painting, sculpture, drama, dance, television, film, graphic novels, and contemporary arts.3 hr sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

ART, CW, SOA

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Course Description

The Wondrous Worlds of Islamic Art
In Fall 2018, the Middlebury College Art Museum will host “Wondrous Worlds,” an exhibition of Islamic arts featuring an unusually broad range of arts and crafts from all parts of the Islamic world, from the distant past to the contemporary present. Our seminar will work closely with the exhibition to learn about the basics of Islamic faith and practice. We will also engage the exhibition themes of Internationalisms, Quran, Calligraphy and Book Arts, Hospitality, Architecture, and the Body Beautiful. Further, we will learn about contemporary arts, graphic novels, music, and film, and practice calligraphy and geometric design. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

ART, CMP, CW

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Course Description

Monuments and Ideas in Asian Art*
This course is an introduction to the study of Asian art history through an investigation of selected art works, considered individually and in broader contexts. This course chronicles the evolution in painting, sculpture, and architecture, and other media of Asia. It is designed for those who wish to build a broad acquaintance with the major works and ideas of Asian art in their historical settings and to develop tools for understanding these works of art as aesthetic objects and bearers of meaning for the societies, group, or individuals that produced them. Registration priority given to first and second year students. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc..

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

Requirements

AAL, ART, CMP, HIS, NOA

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Course Description

Approaches to Islamic Art
A survey of major expressions of Islamic art from the inception of Islam to the present, from all parts of the Islamic world. This is not a traditional survey; rather, it focuses on key monuments and important examples of portable and decorative arts: mosques, tombs, palaces, manuscript illumination, calligraphy, metalwork, textiles, ceramics, etc. We will consider their meanings and functions in their respective socio-historical contexts, and we will also analyze the impact of patronage and region. We will try to understand what general principles unify the richness and diversity of Islamic art: what is Islamic about Islamic art? Finally, we will address the issue of contemporary Islamic art. (No prerequisites). 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, ART, MDE

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Course Description

Poetry, Piety and Power: Indian Painting 1200-Present
This course considers the history, context, style, and significance of a broad spectrum of Indian painting traditions. We will look closely at Jaina and Hindu religious illustrations, the evocative courtly and religious imagery from the Rajput and other regional kingdoms, the extraordinarily refined and naturalistic Mughal imagery, the influence of colonialism, and the development of modern and contemporary works. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

AAL, ART, HIS, SOA

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Course Description

Arts of Asia
This course considers South and East Asian art history from its most ancient origins in India, China, and Japan to the present. This is not a comprehensive survey; rather, it focuses on cross-cultural connections through selected art works, considered individually and in broader contexts. We will chronicle the evolutions of painting, sculpture, architecture, and other media of Asia, focusing especially on painting, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts. We will pay particular attention to the impact of religious and royal patronage, Buddhism and Hinduism, the Silk Road, Asian aesthetics, and specialized techniques such as ink painting and woodblock printing. Works of art will be studied in terms of style, religious meaning, and social and historical contexts. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AAL, ART, CMP, HIS, NOA

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Course Description

Imperial Splendor: the Art and Architecture of India's Mughal Empire
The Mughal empire, founded by a new dynasty of Muslim rulers, claimed control over much of north India in the 16th century. Under their dominance, new forms of art and architecture flourished. In this seminar we will critically explore such topics as: the style and symbolism of Mughal art and architecture; the influence of Persian and Indian Rajput visual forms; the biographies and ambitions of the Mughal rulers; the role of women in the Mughal court; and the interactions between Muslim and Hindu visual cultures, as well as the important contributions made by European art. We will pay special attention to how art and architecture played a central role in imperial self-definition and the construction of a specialized Mughal history, placing those works in their political, social, and cultural contexts. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, ART, HIS, SOA

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Course Description

The Aesthetics of Asian Art: Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?
In this course we will consider select Asian (Indian, Chinese, Japanese) and Islamic artworks in the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s permanent collection to explore the fundamental question: “Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?” Are standards in beauty universal, or are they always relative? We will ask how the act of beholding is entwined with cultural assumptions and conditioning and will address those assumptions through an intensive combination of close looking, critical analysis, and comparative consideration of a diverse range of artworks and aesthetic traditions. Comparisons will be made with select works of Western art in the museum. (not open to students who have taken HARC 0102) 3 hrs. lect./disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, ART, CMP, NOA

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Course Description

The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Gods, Goddesses, and Demons in Indian Art
Indian mythology and epic literature abounds with stories of conflicts between the forces of good and evil. There are multiple forms of Hindu gods and goddesses who battle an array of evil and colorful demonic foes, and each cosmic battle embodies a profound philosophical lesson about relative values and complex moral choices. We will explore the meanings and myriad creative expressions of this rich terrain through a lively variety of artistic depictions—in mythological literature, painting, sculpture, drama, dance, television, film, graphic novels, and contemporary arts. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1023.) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, ART, SOA

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Course Description

Advanced Studies
Supervised independent work in art history, museum studies, or architectural studies. (Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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. HARC 0540 should be taken concurrently with the second semester 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)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

Senior Thesis Research Seminar
In this course students will conceive, undertake research, and plan the organization of their senior thesis 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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

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Course Description

Bollywood and Beyond: Topics and Themes in Indian Cinema
‘Bollywood,’ the term given to the Indian film industry juggernaut in Bombay (Mumbai), India, has gained an avid following of millions of viewers worldwide. In this course we will provide a critical consideration of the history and development of this popular Indian film industry. We will focus on such topics as the construction of an Indian national identity, notions of gender, idealized beauty, caste, class, religion, social norms, globalism, modernity, politics, nationalism, and fundamentalism. Films are subtitled and no knowledge of another language is expected. Lectures, discussion, and readings will accompany screenings.

Terms Taught

Winter 2022

Requirements

AAL, ART, SOA, WTR

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