Sara Pankenier Weld

Department Chair
Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature

Office Location

Phelps 6212


Sara earned her Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures and a Ph.D. Minor in Comparative Literature and Scandinavian at Stanford University in 2006. She received a B.A. in Comparative Literature and a Minor in Russian Literature at Dartmouth College in 1998.


Sara has taught at UCSB since 2012. Her teaching encompasses Russian literature and culture, comparative literature, and children's literature. She lives in Santa Barbara with her family, including her three children. In her free time she enjoys traveling, the outdoors, and the Channel Islands.


Sara Pankenier Weld specializes in childhood in literature, culture, and theory; Russian literature, Scandinavian literature, comparative literature, and world literature; avant-garde literature, art, and theory; literatures of the north; Indigeneity and childhood; word and image; childhood studies, children’s literature, and picturebooks. Her comparative and interdisciplinary interests are wide-ranging, but oftentimes childhood, infancy, and the infantile figure centrally within her research, whether this interest takes her scholarship into literature, culture, history, art, or film; transnational eighteenth- or nineteenth-century literature, modernism, and the avant-garde; or children's literature and picturebooks.


Sara is an Executive Board Member of the International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL) and Convener of the 2023 IRSCL Congress, along with Dafna Zur of Stanford University. The 2023 IRSCL Congress will take place at the University of California, Santa Barbara on August 12-17, 2023.

During her 2018-2019 research leave, Sara was a guest researcher in comparative literature at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics at Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden, where she was working on a new book project on the uses of childhood in Nabokov's texts.

In summer 2019, Sara was a Stipendiat at the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany, where she pursued new research on childhood and Indigeneity in northern literature for children, from North America, Scandinavia, and Russia.


Sara's first book Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Gardean interdisciplinary study of Russian literature, art, and theory, was published in 2014 by Northwestern University Press as part of its Studies in Russian Literature and Theory series and supported by the Mellon Slavic Studies Initiative. It received the International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL) Book Award in 2015. It was also on the long list for the 2016 Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History and was nominated for the 2016 American Association for Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) 2016 Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies. It has been reviewed by Slavic Review, The Russian Review, Modern Language Review, International Research in Children's Literature, and Barnboken- Journal of Children's Literature Research. It is currently being prepared for publication in Russian translation.

Sara's second book, An Ecology of the Russian Avant-Garde Picturebookswhich mounts a close analysis of image and text in little-known picturebooks by prominent Russian writers, artists, and intellectuals, was published in 2018 by John Benjamins as volume 9 in the award-winning Children's Literature, Culture, and Cognition series. It has been reviewed in The Lion and the Unicorn and Slavic Review.

Her current book project is entitled Miniature Revelations: Childhood in Nabokov's Writings. It argues that throughout Nabokov's work, the neglected and inscrutable child, who might be mistaken for a marginal figure, in fact offers a miniature revelation and key to Nabokov's novels that enables a reevaluation of the text. 

Book chapters on transnational aspects of Catherine the Great's writings for children and the place of childhood in Svetlana Alexieviech's Chernobyl Prayer are currently in press.

Recent publications include “The Production of the Man-Machine: The Child as Instrument of Futurity” in Pedagogy of Images (Toronto University Press, 2021), edited by Marina Balina and Serguei Oushakine and “The Child’s-Eye View of War in Ivan’s Childhood" in ReFocus: The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky (University of Edinburgh Press, 2021)edited by Sergey Toymentsev. In 2015 Sara published a chapter in the volume Children's Literature and the Avant-Garde edited by Elina Druker and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, which won the Children's Literature Association (ChLA) Edited Book Award in 2017 and the IRSCL Edited Book Award in 2017.

Sara has previously published numerous articles or chapters on a variety of Russian historical figures like Catherine the Great, filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein, writers Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, Daniil Kharms, Samuil Marshak, and Vladimir Nabokov, and artists Vladimir Lebedev and Mikhail Tsekhanovsky. She has also written on Scandinavian topics and the writers Selma Lagerlöf and Laura Fitinghoff. Her articles have appeared in the journals Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, and Russian Language Journal, as well as in foreign publications like Scando-Slavica, Tidskrift för litteraturvetenskapDetskie chteniia, Nedslag i børnelitteraturforskningen, Barnelitterært forskningstidsskrift, Barnboken, Antropologicheskii forum, and International Research in Children's Literature, in English, Danish, Russian, and Swedish.


C LIT 210 "Proseminar in Comparative Literature"

C LIT 200 "Russian Formalism, Semiotics, and Bakhtin"

C LIT 100 "Introduction to Comparative Literature"

C LIT 128A "Children's Literature"

C LIT 188 "Literature and Exile"

C LIT 189 "First-Person Narrative: Childhood and Autobiography"

SLAV 117A Major Russian Writers: Pushkin

SLAV 117G Major Russian Writers: Dostoevsky

SLAV 117J Major Russian Writers: Bulgakov

SLAV 117I Major Russian Writers: Nabokov

SLAV 124: Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry

SLAV 35: Short Fiction by Major Russian, East European & Eurasian Writers

INT 84CO: Channel Islands Literature: The Lone Woman of San Nicolas

INT 94QQ: Russian Animated Film

INT 84ZE: Crime and Punishment

INT 185FT: Reframing the Folktale