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Vance Byrd

Vance Byrd
Frank and Roberta Furbush Scholar in German
Associate Professor
Department Chair of German

Professor Byrd is a scholar of nineteenth-century German literature who writes and teaches on topics relating to media studies, history of the book and periodicals, museum studies, and environmental studies. His first book, A Pedagogy of Observation: Nineteenth-Century Panoramas, German Literature, and Reading Culture will be published in October 2017 by Bucknell University Press. A Pedagogy of Observation argues that the fascination with learning about the past and new locations in panoramic form spread far from the traditional sites of popular entertainment and amusement. Although painted panoramas captivated audiences from Hamburg to Leipzig and Berlin to Vienna, relatively few people had direct access to this invention. Instead, most Germans in the early nineteenth century encountered panoramas for the first time through the written word. The panorama experience described in this book centers on the emergence of a new type of visual language and self-fashioning in material culture adopted by Germans at the turn of the nineteenth century, one that took cues from the pedagogy of observing and interpreting space at panorama shows. By reading about what editors, newspaper correspondents, and writers referred to as “panoramas,” curious Germans learned about a new representational medium and a new way to organize and produce knowledge about the scenes on display, even if they had never seen these marvels in person. Like an audience member standing on a panorama platform at a show, reading about panoramas transported Germans to new worlds in the imagination, while maintaining a safe distance from the actual transformations being portrayed. A Pedagogy of Observation identifies how the German bourgeois intelligentsia created literature as panoramic stages both for self-representation and as a venue for critiquing modern life. These written panoramas, so to speak, helped German readers see before their eyes industrial transformations, urban development, scientific exploration, and new possibilities for social interactions. Through the immersive act of reading, Germans entered an experimental realm that fostered critical engagement with modern life before it was experienced firsthand. Surrounded on all sides by new perspectives into the world, these readers occupied the position of the characters that they read about in panoramic literature. From this vantage point, Germans apprehended changes to their immediate environment and prepared themselves for the ones still to come.

Professor Byrd has started research for a second book-length project, Handmade History: Panoramas and Global Media Production, which investigates commemorative practices and panoramas in terms of immigration, capital, and material flows from around the world. In addition to larger projects on visual culture and popular entertainments, Byrd is co-editing with Sean Franzel (University of Missouri) a double issue of Colloquia Germanica on new approaches to the first-publication of literature in nineteenth-century periodicals, and he is preparing a co-edited book with Ervin Malakaj (Sam Houston State University) titled The Business of Literature: German Editorial Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century. His articles have been published in journals including The German Studies Review (2012), The Germanic Review (2017, 2015), The Journal of Austrian Studies (2014), and Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies (2015). He is currently preparing essays on the page format and the production aesthetics of sewing and embroidery patterns in nineteenth-century illustrated fashion periodicals; foresters and Iffland’s family dramas; as well as on periodical publication and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s sense of literary legacy. He will be leading a seminar, “Nineteenth-Century Visual Cultural Studies,” with Kit Belgum (University of Texas at Austin) at the 2017 German Studies Association conference in Atlanta. Professor Byrd will also be presenting his research at the 2017 Atkins Goethe Conference and at the 2018 Modern Language Association meeting. In addition, he has been invited to present is work at the DFG research unit conference “Visual Design: The Periodical Page as a Designed Surface” at the Universität Marburg.

Professor Byrd has been supported by grants from the Fulbright Commission, the Quadrangle Historical Research Foundation, the Max Kade Foundation, the Weimar Classics Foundation, and the William Fontaine Endowment. Professor Byrd received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in History and German from the University of Georgia.

faculty info column 1

On-Campus Address: 

Alumni Recitation Hall
1226 Park St
Grinnell, IA 50112
United States

Courses Taught: 

Advanced Seminar in German Studies; Continuing German I; Continuing German II; Introduction to German I; Core Seminar I: From Culture to Nation; Cultural and Intellectural Revolution from Classicism through Realism; Introduction to German II; GRM 101 Introductory German I; Print Matters: History, Theory, Praxis; Recent Trends in German Literature: Graphic Novel


GRM / ART 295 Print Matters: History, Theory, Praxis

GRM 372 Recent Trends in German Literature: Graphic Novel



Department Chair: