News & Events

The department is committed to contributing actively to the intellectual life on campus and in the community.


News and Announcements:

Commemoration of the Life and Work of Don Barton Johnson (1933-2020)

In memory of our dear colleague Professor Emeritus Don Barton Johnson (1933-2020), the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at UCSB held a virtual commemoration of Don’s life and work on Sunday, February 28th, 2021.

We are glad to offer this link to a number of obituaries from The Nabokovian: The International Vladimir Nabokov Society:

Passing of Professor Emeritus Donald Barton Johnson (1933-2020)

Donald Barton Johnson

With great sadness we report the passing of Professor Emeritus Donald Barton Johnson. Donald Barton Johnson, who went by the nickname Don and published scholarship under the name D. Barton Johnson, was a Professor of Russian in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies  for 25 years, before retiring in 1991. 

Don passed away peacefully at Villa Alamar in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, after having been in declining health for some time. Don is survived by his widow Sheila Johnson, and also by his stepdaughter Jessica Dora and his stepson Aaron Moody, his wife Rebecca Vidra, and their three daughters Lili, Chloe, and Véla.

Donald Barton Johnson was born on June 15, 1933. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1966 and joined the University of California, Santa Barbara that same year, as an Assistant Professor of Russian and Slavic Linguistics. He received tenure in 1971 and was promoted to full Professor in 1980.

Don did significant work within Slavic Studies, ranging from linguistics to literary studies, and was a figure of great stature within research communities devoted to the study of Russian writers Vladimir Nabokov and Sasha Sokolov. He was the author of several books, including Transformations and their Use in the Resolution of Syntactic Homomorphy (Mouton, 1970), the groundbreaking study Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir Nabokov (Ardis, 1985), and, with Gerald de Vries, Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Painting (Amsterdam UP, 2006), as well as numerous chapters and articles on Nabokov and Sokolov.

Don played an early and leading role in Nabokov studies and served twice as the president of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society. He also created NABOKV-L, an electronic Nabokov discussion forum based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which he launched in 1993, the same year he founded the annual print journal Nabokov Studies, which now awards the Donald Barton Johnson Prize for the best essay in Nabokov studies. In addition to Nabokov studies, Johnson was influential in his research on Sokolov. He compiled many biographical materials and conducted interviews with Sasha Sokolov.

Thanks to Don and his scholarly generosity, the University of California at Santa Barbara has extensive archival and research materials related to Vladimir Nabokov and Sasha Sokolov at Davidson Library and Special Research Collections, including the Donald Barton Johnson Papers, based on his own personal archive. In February of 2016, the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara hosted a symposium, exhibit, and performance devoted to the work of Vladimir Nabokov in Don’s honor. The Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies will continue to honor Don’s memory with the D. Barton Johnson Award, which awards the best critical scholarly essay by a student on Russian, East European, or Eurasian literature, art, and culture by a UCSB student, and was founded in 2017 with a gift from an anonymous donor.

Don will be remembered for his rigorous and insightful scholarship, whose meticulousness and ingenuity evoke both his work as a cryptographer during wartime, and deep linguistic expertise, as well as for his clever stories, wit, and enthusiasm for birdwatching in Santa Barbara and hiking near his home in Mission Canyon. We will miss him dearly.

GSS Supports the College of Letters & Science Statement on Racial Injustice


In our shock and anguish at tragic recent events, the faculty of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies fully supports the following College of Letters and Science statement and ongoing efforts by the entire UCSB community to respond to these events and pursue antiracist pedagogy and a plan of accountable action. We pledge to participate in the plan outlined in the statement and join the Deans and Associate Deans in their resolve towards significant and meaningful change. 

As one of many necessary steps in this process towards significant and meaningful change, GSS faculty members have started to compile an Anti-Racist Pedagogy and Programming Library, with the purpose of sharing events and resources related to anti-racist pedagogy on campus and beyond.

College of Letters and Science Statement on Racial Injustice: A Plan of Accountable Action

The College of Letters and Science shares the collective grief and anger over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor by means of state-sanctioned violence. These deaths are hardly a new or unique phenomenon, as Black peoples and other people of color in our country have faced such violence for more than 400 years. Yet we also know that the particular context matters. The conjunction of long-standing economic and racial inequality, our nation’s history of racial violence, an ongoing pandemic, and our current political environment have served to create a national crisis that threatens the health of our communities and the viability of our multicultural and multiracial democracy.

The College of Letters and Science affirms its solidarity with Black faculty, staff, and students, and expresses its support for the millions of protestors in the United States and abroad who are working to change systems of inequality. We know that words of solidarity are not sufficient for this moment, and that we must translate our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion into concrete actions and policies.

We thus commit to a plan of accountable action that includes but is not limited to the following measures:

  • We will work with increased vigor and urgency with the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor to ensure that campus recruits superb teachers and scholars to fill the two open North Hall Chairs and to fully fund a North Hall Chair for Black Studies.
  • In collaboration with CITRAL, the College’s Academic Success Centers, and other campus agencies we will identify resources to support students and instructors to fulfill our mission of serving the diverse students of the State of California.
  • We will work with academic departments to develop strategies for improving equity and inclusion among faculty and in the classroom.
  • We will redouble our efforts to recruit outstanding faculty through the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which is one of our campus’s most effective tools for advancing faculty diversity.
  • We will continue to pledge resources to support the UC-HBCU program.
  • We call for the expedited appointment of UCSB’s new Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

We are resolved to stand with so many others in our campus community who work daily to ensure that UC Santa Barbara embodies our shared commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice.

The Deans and Associate Deans of the College of Letters and Science, UC Santa Barbara


Moreover, the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies endorses and pledges to participate in The Division of Humanities and Fine Arts Call for Antiracist Pedagogy and Programming as quoted in part below, such as by devising a set of strategies for improving equity and inclusion among faculty, in departmental governance, and in the classroom.


HFA Call for Antiracist Pedagogy and Programming

The Division of the Humanities and Fine Arts committed itself to the College of Letters and Science plan for accountable action issued in the wake of the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, among others, and in response to long-standing patterns of systemic violence against Black and other people of color in this country ( As a first step in fulfilling that commitment, the leadership of HFA invites each academic department or program to discuss together the L&S plan and devise a set of strategies for improving equity and inclusion among faculty, in departmental governance, and in the classroom. We recognize that each department has its own history of challenges and accomplishments, and several departments already have identified areas that they have committed themselves to change. [...] We also recognize that because histories of racist and anti-Black patterns of thought suffuse our curricula, standards and mechanisms of evaluation, and hiring and admission practices, systemic changes are necessary to ensure a truly quality education and supportive environment for everyone. To that end, we propose an ongoing, tiered process that begins with individual departments establishing their priorities in action plans to be followed by financial and administrative support at the divisional level to coordinate and facilitate these priorities.



Upcoming Events:



Recent Past Events:

2019 Germanic & Slavic Studies Awards Ceremony

Congratulations to all of the recipients of Certificates of Excellence and our highest awards and distinctions!

Some of the Award Recipients in German     Some of awardees in Slavic   


Focus on Faculty: Dr. Susan Derwin on her writing workshop for veterans

"The Healing Power of Storytelling: from the Holocaust to recent American military deployments" by Maya Chiodo (November 2018)

Read the interview with Dr. Susan Derwin (a specialist on trauma studies and a professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Comparative Literature and Germanic and Slavic Studies departments)


Heidegger and Kabbalah. Exploring Elliot Wolfson’s Work on Martin Heidegger and Jewish Mysticism

Thursday, March 5, 2020, Annenberg Conference Room, SSMS  4315, 10-5 pm
University of California, Santa Barbara

A conference on Elliot Wolfson’s book, Heidegger and Kabbalah. Hidden Gnosis and the Path of Poiēsis (Indiana University Press, 2019).
Convened by Elisabeth Weber (Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, Comparative Literature)


"Radio and Environments. From Hörspiel to Radio Art"

Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 5pm, Phelps 6206: A Lecture by Ute Holl (Basel University)

Event Flyer


Film Screening and Discussion: "Images of the World and Inscription of War"

Monday, March 4, 2019, 7pm, HSSB 1173. The film will be introduced by Visiting Kade Professor, Dr. Ute Holl, who will also moderate the post-screening discussion.

This event is presented by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies and the UC Santa Barbara Memory Studies Reading Group.

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A Day Commemorating the Life and Work of Professor Ursula Mahlendorf

Friday, April 12, 10:30am-5:00pm, Mosher Alumni House and Geiringer Hall (Music Department).

This event is presented by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies and co-sponsored by the College of Letters and Science, the Departments of Sociology and Feminist Studies, and the Comparative Literature Program.

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Film Screening and Discussion: "The Milan Protocol" ("Das Milan Protokoll")

Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 7:00-9:45pm, Pollock Theater: Following the film, director Peter Ott will join moderator Dr. Elisabeth Weber for a post-screening discussion.

The event is free, but a reservation is recommended to guarantee a seat.

More information is available here.


"Beyond Praries and Skyscrapers? Austrian travelogues of the inter-war era on the U.S."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018, 4pm: a talk by Rebecca Unterberger (Visiting Fulbright Scholar)

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"Persons of Interest"

Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 5-6:30 pm: a talk by Andreas Bernard (Leuphana University Lüneburg / Germany)

Event Flyer (front)

Event Flyer (back)


 "Germany's Musical Ruins"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 5 pm: a talk by Professor Martha Sprigge

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"Jackals and Arabs (Once More: The German-Jewish Dialogue)"

Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6pm: a lecture by Gil Anidjar (Columbia University)

"Rebranding Sovereignty in the Age of Trump"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 4-6 pm: a talk by Professor Eric Santner (University of Chicago)

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"A Child Hero: Heroic Biographies in Children's Literature"

Thursday, April 27, 2017, 2-3:15 pm: a talk by Svetlana Maslinskaya (Institute of Russian Literature, Pushkin House, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Event Flyer


"School discipline inside and out: the limits of Soviet school's disciplinary authorities"

Thursday, April 27, 4-5:30 pm: a talk by Kirill Maslinsky (National Research University of Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia)

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"Heidegger, Nazism, and the Jewish Other"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 4-6 pm: a seminar with Professor Elliot Wolfson

The link to the preface and two chapters of Elliot Wolfson's book is here

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"Hannah Arendt, On truth and lying in politics"

Monday, April 17, 2017, 4-6 pm: a workshop with Professor Susanne Lüdemann

The seminar began with a short presentation by Dr. Lüdemann, after which the following texts by Hannah Arendt were discussed:

-- “Lying in Politics,” from: Crises of the Republic, pp. 1-47
-- “Truth and Politics,” The New Yorker, February 25, 1967

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"Translating the Russian Classics in the Twenty-First Century"

February 16, 2017, 12:30 pm: a talk by Marian Schwartz (Russian translator)

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"What is "Modern Technics"?

Monday, October 11, 2016, 4 pm: a talk by Bernard Stiegler (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris)

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For the video of Bernard Stiegler's talk, click here:

Bernard Stiegler Talk

(Please note: The audio of the introduction is poor, but Stiegler's talk is loud and clear.)


 "Dialectics of a Constellation: Heinrich Heine in Critical Theory"

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 4 pm: a talk by Willi Goetschel (University of Toronto)

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Past Conferences and Symposia:

Nabokov Symposium 2016

"Nabokov's Idioms: Translating Foreigness," a one-day symposium in honor of Don Barton Johnson, emeritus professor, took place on Friday, February 19, 2016.

You can see the symposium poster here.


Metamorphosis Conference 2015

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s famous text “The metamorphosis,” an interdisciplinary conference at UCSB brought together a wide array of scholars and artists to discuss Kafka’s text in its literary-historical context, and to read it as an exploration of metamorphoses that problematize borders between species and between living organisms and machines.