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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 related to media studies, history of the book and periodicals, museum studies, and the environmental humanities.


His first book, A Pedagogy of Observation: Nineteenth-Century Panoramas, German Literature, and Reading Culture, was published in the New Studies in the Age of Goethe series at Bucknell University Press in 2017. The panorama experience described in A Pedagogy of Observation 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. Byrd argues in A Pedagogy of Observation that these written panoramas 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. 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 on two new book projects, Handmade History: Panoramas and Global Cultures of Commemoration and Forester Fictions: Scientific Forest Management, Antisemitism, and the German Imaginary. In addition to these monographs, Byrd is the co-editor of a journal issue and two anthologies are in preparation: He and Sean Franzel (University of Missouri) have a forthcoming double issue of Colloquia Germanica on new approaches to the first-publication of German literature in nineteenth century periodicals. Byrd is preparing a co-edited book with Ervin Malakaj (University of British Columbia in Vancouver) on publication strategies in the nineteenth-century literary establishment. Drawing upon a recent German Studies Association seminar and a symposium held in Austin, he will be co-editing a book with Kirsten Belgum (University of Texas at Austin) on pre-photographic nineteenth-century visual cultural studies.


Professor Byrd has organized a panel series with Matthew Birkhold (The Ohio State University) titled “The Measured Environment” for the 2018 German Studies Association Conference. Byrd is at work on articles and chapters on the visual format of nineteenth-century illustrated fashion periodicals; Droste-Hülshoff and authorship; commemorating political unity in German and American nineteenth-century illustrated periodicals; the archival techniques of R.B. Hough’s The American Woods; and Adalbert Stifter in America. A selection of his previously published work:


“Family, Intercategorical Complexity, and Kleist’s Die Verlobung in St. Domingo,” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 92, no. 3 (2017): 223–244.

“‘Der Effekt des Drucks’: Droste-Hülshoff’s Judenbuche and Hauff’s Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser,” Colloquia Germanica 49, no. 2–3 (2016).

“Cultural Legitimacy and Nicolas Mahler’s Autobiographical Comics,” in Novel Perspectives on German-Language Comics: History, Pedagogy, Theory, ed. Lynn Marie Kutch (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016), 215–235.

“Covering the Wound: Panorama Exhibitions and Handmade History,” Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies 51, no. 1 (2015): 10–27.

“Der holzgerechte Jäger: Forster Fictions and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s Die Judenbuche,” The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 89, no. 4 (2014): 345–364.

“The Politics of Commemoration in Wien und die Wiener,” Journal of Austrian Studies 47, no. 1 (2014): 1–20.

“Regarding the Cousin: Surveillance and Narration in Hoffmann’s Des Vetters Eckfenster,” German Studies Review 35, no. 2 (2012): 249–264.


In addition to leadership and service at Grinnell College, Professor Byrd serves the profession in many ways. He was elected to the Modern Language Association (MLA) Executive Committee (2018–2022) and Delegate Assembly (2018–2020) (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures: 19th- and Early-20th-Century German). He is a member of the Selection Committee for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and German Studies Association book prize (2018). He was a member of the selection committee for the National Endowment for the Humanities Global Book Histories Initiative Fellowships (2017) for the Rare Book School. He was a member of the Goethe Society of North America Elections Nominating Committee (2015). He served as President (2011–2013) and Vice President (2009–2011) of the Iowa Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German.


Professor Byrd has been supported by grants from the Fulbright Commission, the Quadrangle Historical Research Foundation, the Max Kade Foundation, the Weimar Classics Foundation, the William Fontaine Endowment, and the Committee on Support of Faculty Scholarship at Grinnell College. He is a life member of the German Studies Association, American Association of Teachers of German, and American Friends of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. He is a regular member of the Modern Language Association, Austrian Studies Association, and the Goethe Society of North America.


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 (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude) 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: