Sara Pankenier Weld researches childhood across national and interdisciplinary boundaries, particularly Slavic, Scandinavian, and North American contexts and in literature, art, film, and theory. Her work, which is moving in increasingly global and comparative directions, seeks to challenge discriminatory attitudes toward children in scholarship, society, and culture. She also increasingly advocates for children in a variety of contexts.
In 2023 Sara was elected President of the International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL), after serving on the IRSCL Executive Board Member from 2019-2021 as Awards and Grants Coordinator and from 2021-2023 as Convenor of the 2023 IRSCL Congress.
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/Slavic and East European literature, culture and theory; 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/Slavic literature, Scandinavian literature, North American 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 literature of the 18th-21st century, modernism, and the avant-garde; or children's literature and picturebooks.
For 2023-2024 Sara received a University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Engaging Humanities grant in support of the associated Revisiting Island of the Blue Dolphins public humanities initiative.
Sara is a co-convenor, along with graduate student co-convenors Rachel Feldman and Solaire Denaud (2022-2023) and Zheng Ren, Martina Mattei, and Nicole Smirnoff (2023-2024), of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center Global Childhood Ecologies Research Focus Group.
Sara was Convenor of the 26th Biennial International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL) 2023 Congress, along with Dafna Zur of Stanford University and a team of faculty, international scholars, graduate student, and PhD alumni organizers. The 2023 IRSCL Congress, which included 4 keynotes, 4 artist/author plenaries, 3 public humanities events, a mentoring lunch, and a Special Research Collections exhibition, took place at the University of California, Santa Barbara on August 12-16, 2023.
In April 2021 she co-organized (with Sven Spieker) a conference on Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster at UCSB, which also included an interview with Director Holly Morris who directed "Babushkas of Chernobyl" in partnership with the Carsey-Wolf Center.
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 her book project on childhood in Nabokov's writings.
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.
She previously served as Co-Executive Officer of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) Working Group for the Study of Childhood in Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and Russia (ChEEER) for 6 years, from 2013-2019.
In February 2016 she co-organized (with Sven Spieker) the symposium Nabokov's Idioms: Translating Foreignness in honor of Professor Emeritus D. Barton Johnson.
Her former Ph.D. advisees include Dr. Tegan Raleigh (Oregon State University), Dr. Katie Lateef-Jan (Branson School), and Dr. Arpi Movsesian (Notre Dame University).
She has hosted international scholars Zheng Ren (Tsinghua University, China) with funding from China Scholarship Council in 2023-2024 and Marina Bernardo Flórez (University of Barcelona) with funding from Fulbright in 2023.
Sara's first book Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde, an 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 was published in Russian translation as Безречие авангарда: Эстетика инфантилизма в русском авангарде by Библиороссика, Bibliorossica of Academic Studies Press in 2023.
Sara's second book, An Ecology of the Russian Avant-Garde Picturebook, which 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.
A book chapter on transnational aspects of Catherine the Great's writings for children rwas published in Transnational Books for Children, 1750-1900 (John Benjamins, 2023), edited by Charlotte Appel, Nina Christensen, and Matthew Grenby, while a chapter on childhood and temporality in Svetlana Alexieviech's Chernobyl Prayer appeared in Historical and Cultural Transformations of Russian Childhood: Myths and Realities (Routledge, 2023), edited by Marina Balina, Larissa Rudova, and Anastasia Kotsteskaya.
Previous book chapters 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. She published a chapter in the volume Children's Literature and the Avant-Garde (John Benjamins, 2017) 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.
She has published numerous articles or chapters on a variety of Russian and East European historical figures like Catherine the Great; filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein; writers Svetlana Alexievich, 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 Indigeneity in a Scandinavian context and about the writers Selma Lagerlöf and Laura Fitinghoff and is pursuing new research on Martha Sandwall-Bergström and Astrid Lindgren. 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 litteraturvetenskap, Detskie chteniia, Nedslag i børnelitteraturforskningen, Barnelitterært forskningstidsskrift, Barnboken, Antropologicheskii forum, and International Research in Children's Literature, in English, Danish, Russian, and Swedish.
C LIT 200 "Russian Formalism, Semiotics, and Bakhtin"
C LIT 210 "Proseminar in Comparative Literature"
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 (with an emphasis on Pushkin's African ancestry)
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 (Island of the Blue Dolphins)
INT 94QQ: Russian Animated Film
INT 84ZE: Crime and Punishment
INT 185FT: Reframing the Folktale