Vance Byrd

Presidential Associate Professor of German, with a secondary appointment in History of Art

Williams 733
On leave Spring 2024
CV (file):


Ph.D., M.A. University of Pennsylvania

B.A., University of Georgia

Vance Byrd is a scholar of late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature who investigates how literary and print culture intersect with the history of visual media. His articles on the history of books and periodicals, museum studies, the environmental humanities, commemoration, as well as approaches to race, gender, and sexuality in literature have appeared in The German Studies ReviewThe German QuarterlySeminarThe Germanic Review, and The Journal of Austrian Studies. In addition to his first book, A Pedagogy of Observation: Nineteenth-Century Panoramas, German Literature, and Reading Culture, Byrd has co-edited two books and two journal special issues. A co-edited collection titled Queer Print Cultures is under contract with the University of Toronto Press.

His current book project, Listening to Panoramas, looks beyond statues to discover how panoramic forms played a pivotal role in transatlantic visual and sonic cultures of commemoration. Panoramas gave audiences around the world the opportunity to immerse themselves in stories about natural and urban landscapes as well as bloody battle scenes depicted on larger-than-life circular paintings. Research in Media Studies has long underestimated the role of what was heard and the role of the lecturer at these attractions. This book proposes that the emotions produced by the sonic and visual effects at panorama shows determine how the past is remembered and politicized. The mentions of shivers down the spine, exploding canon fire at Gettysburg, and the popular minstrelsy song “Dixie” in printed documents and sound recordings demonstrate that panoramic representation was much more complicated than ocularcentric accounts allow. Listening to Panoramas thus draws from a rich and varied media archive and critical phenomenological frameworks to examine commemorative experience at these attractions. While these painted canvases seek to present history as a continuous heroic narrative without contradictions, printed materials and other forms of recorded media—typescripts, audio recordings of lectures, soundtracks, television clips, short films, and museum audio guides—document how sight and sound framed panoramas ideologically and the extent to which they were indexed by the predominating media of a given era. By analyzing how sound changed after every restoration, Listening to Panoramas tracks the evolution of attitudes about the American Civil War and the enslavement of Black people since Reconstruction. Furthermore, it investigates how Black artists have turned to the panoramic form to resist narratives about defeat and victory in the American Civil War and to reinscribe the history of the Black freedom struggles onto the medium.

His research has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Commission, the Classics Foundation Weimar, and the Quadrangle Historical Research Foundation. In 2019, he was awarded a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In 2021–2022, in addition to being a residential fellow at the National Humanities Center, he was part of Duke University’s Humanities Unbounded initiative and a Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

He is currently on the editorial boards of Monatshefte, The German Quarterly, and the Signale book series at Cornell University Press. He is on the board of the American Friends of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach and the Academic Advisory Committee of the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Research Interests

late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature, print culture, history of visual media, history of books and periodicals, the environmental humanities, commemoration, approaches to race, gender, and sexuality

Selected Publications


A Pedagogy of Observation: Nineteenth-Century Panoramas, German Literature, and Reading Culture, New Studies in the Age of Goethe (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2017). Reviewed in The German QuarterlyMonatshefteEuropean Romantic ReviewThe Goethe Yearbook, and The German Studies Review.


Edited Volumes and Journal Issues:

Queer Print Culture (under contract), in the series Studies in Book and Print Culture at the University of Toronto Press, co-edited with Javier Samper, with essays by Phoenix Alexander, Tanveer Hossain Anoy, Cait Coker, Domenic DeSocio, Kyle Frackman, Hannah Frydman, Elizabeth Groeneveld, Miriam Intrator, Rebekah Irwin, Saad Adnan Khan, Catriona MacLeod, Ela Przybylo, and Christopher Wilde.

Before Photography: German Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century, in the series Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021), co-edited with Kirsten Belgum and John Benjamin, with essays by the editors, Matthew Anderson, Christian Bachmann, Trevor Brandt, David Ciarlo, Agnes Hoffmann, Peter McIsaac, Catriona MacLeod, Kathrin Maurer, Antje Pfannkuchen, and John Short.

Market Strategies and German Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century, in the series Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020), co-edited with Ervin Malakaj, with essays by the editors, Richard B. Apgar, Henning Marmulla, Jonathan M. Hess, Alexander Phillips, David Meola, Jessica Resvick, Jan Behrs, Petra McGillen, Shane D. Peterson, Petra Watzke, and Tobias Boes. Reviewed in The German Studies Review.

The Studied Environment, a special theme issue of The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 94, no. 3 (2019), co-edited with Matthew H. Birkhold, with essays by the editors, Anna-Lisa Baumeister, and May Mergenthaler.

Periodical Literature in the Nineteenth Century, a special double issue of Colloquia Germanica 49, no. 2–3 (2016 [2018]), co-edited with Sean Franzel, with essays by the editors, Dennis Senzel, Tobias Hermans, Angela Borchert, Kirsten Belgum, Shane D. Peterson, Lynne Tatlock, and Daniela Gretz.


Selected Journal Articles, Book Chapters, and Essays:

"Empire, Mass Manufacture, and Craft on Display: The German Book Pavilion at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876," Monatshefte 115, no. 3 (Fall 2023): 386–403.

"Reading Stifter in America," in German Literature as a Transnational Field of Production, 1848–1919, ed. Lynne Tatlock and Kurt Beals (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2023), 59–78.

"Telling All the Stories,"
 The German Quarterly 95, no. 4 (Fall 2022): 446–448.

"Community and Forest Management in A.W. Iffland's Die Jäger," Modern Language Notes (MLN) 137, no. 3 (April 2022): 527–544.

"Enacting the Past: Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Periodicals and Painted Panoramas," in Before Photography: German Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021), 65–93.

"The Production of Books and the Production of the Professional Self: Droste-Hülshoff's Predicament of Authorship," in Market Strategies and German Literature in the Long Nineteenth Century (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020), 219–243.

"Orientations in German Studies," in the forum "Does German Cultural Studies need the Nation-State Model?" The German Quarterly 29, no. 4 (Fall 2019): 445–448.

"Lese-und Handarbeiten: Illustrated German Fashion Journals and Sewing in the Nineteenth Century," in Visuelles Design. Die Journalseite als gestaltete Fläche / Visual Design. The Periodical Page as Designed Surface, ed. DFG-Forschergruppe "Journalliteratur" (Hannover: Wehrhahn, 2019), 361–381.

"Saving the Forest: The Serialization of Wood Specimen Collections," in The Studied Environment, a special theme issue of The Germanic Review: Literature, Culture, Theory 94, no. 3 (2019): 228–238.

“Epigraphs and the Journal Edition of Droste-Hülshoff’s Judenbuche,” Colloquia Germanica 49, no. 2–3 (2016 [2018]): 177–200.

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

“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: Forester 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.


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