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Barton Byg

Professor Emeritus - Founding Director of the DEFA Film Library

Barton Byg, Professor Emeritus, Founding director of DEFA Film Library, German and Scandinavian Studies, UMass Amherst

(413) 545-6671

523 Herter Hall

Educated at Drake University (BA with concentrations in English, German, French and Theater) and Washington University in St. Louis (masters’ in German and comparative literature; PhD in comparative literature).

Other early academic experiences were at the Universities of Montreal and Freiburg (Baden-Württemberg, Germany), but a graduate research research project focusing on the first broadcast of the NBC miniseries Holocaust in Berlin led to a lasting engagement with issues of memory and visual culture. The work of filmmakers Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub also remains a research focus, connecting European cinema with international arts, politics and culture. Other research and teaching focuses include documentary, culture of the Cold War, memory culture, landscape and film, color and film. In the early 1990s he developed and founded the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst, the only archive and study center outside Europe devoted to the cinema of the German Democratic Republic and related subjects. He has directed three NEH summer institutes as well as numerous conferences in German studies and film studies, and in 2001 established the DEFA Film Library’s series of biannual summer film institutes.
(DVD catalog and overview of teaching, research and outreach activities at


PhD 1982, Washington University
MA 1978, Washington University
MA 1977, Washington University
BA 1975, Drake University

Research Areas

  • 20th-century literature and film, especially of the German Democratic Republic
  • Film theory


Honors and Named Lectures

  • "Abstraction in the Cultural Cold War: Film and the Visual Arts in East Germany,"
  •  2012 Luebeck Lecture, The Ohio State University
  • 2011 Reinhold Schünzel Award, CineFest Hamburg, awarded for long-time achievements in the field of restoration, preservation or dissemination and popularization of the German and European film heritage.
  • "Lives of Others: Film, Memory, and German Unification,"
  • 2008 Jackie M. Pritzen Faculty Lecture, Five Colleges, Inc.
  • Five College 40th Anniversary Professorship, 2005 – 2008
  • Konrad Wolf as Mediator,” Thyssen Foundation Lecture, Center for German Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Beer Sheva), 17 November 2007.
  • Program Prize, DEFA Foundation, 2005 (awarded to DEFA Film Library)

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

  • barluschke (1997). In: Über Thomas Heise. Eds. Matthias Dell and Simon Rothöhler. Berlin: Vorwerk8, 2014. 59 - 67"

  • "Spectral Images in the Afterlife of GDR Cinema." In: DEFA after East Germany. Ed. Brigitta Wagner, Rochester NY: Camden House. 24 - 47.

  • "The Post-1989 East German Documentary Film." In: World Issues in Independent Documentary Film Today. Eds. Camille Deprez and Judith Pernin. Edinburgh UP  2015.

  • "Divided Loyalties: Technocrats and the Working Class in DEFA Films." In: DEFA at the Crossroads of East German and International Film Culture: A Companion. Eds. Marc Silberman and Henning Wrage. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014. 67 - 86.

  • ---- with Evan Torner. "Divided Dirigisme: Nationalism, Regionalism and Reform in the German Film Academies." In: The Education of the Flmmaker: Views from around the World. Ed. Mette Hjort. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 105 - 126.

  • "Is There Still an East German Cinema?" In: Cinemas in Transition in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989. Ed. Catherine Portuges and Peter Hames. Philadelphia: Temple University Press 2013. 75 - 103.

  • "Nicht versöhnt oder Es hilft nur Gewalt, wo Gewalt herrscht," In: Neuer Deutscher Film. Reclams Universal-Bibliothek nr. 19016; Stilepochen des Films. Eds. Norbert Grob, Hans Helmut Prinzler, and Eric Rentschler. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, 2012. 83 - 91.      

  • "Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, Rainer Werner Fassbinder: Katzelmacher and Pains of Youth, Munich Action-Theater, 7 April 1968." A New History of German Cinema. Eds. Jennifer Kapczynski and Michael Richardson.  Rochester NY: Camden House, 2012. 411 - 416. “Class Conflict and Urban Public Space: Haneke and Mass Transit.” In: Michael Haneke: A Cinema of Provocation. Ed. Roy Grundmann. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 441 – 454.

Awards and Accolades

2019 - Ulfers Foundation Award, NYU.