Winston, professor of German Studies, chair of the German Studies
Department, and coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship,
holds her translation of “Crabwalk” by Nobel-Prize-winning author Günter
Professor of German Studies
35th Year at Wesleyan
|In 1956, Richard and Clara Winston left their farm in Vermont to spend some
time in Switzerland. Their two daughters, Krishna, 12, and Justina, 10, were
enrolled in Swiss public school. They knew only a few words of German.
“There were little boys who brought their gym shoes to school in cloth
bags,” Krishna Winston recalls. “As we were walking home, they would swing
those bags by the drawstrings and hit us in the back of our legs, chanting,
‘Khaschdu Düütsch?’ which means ‘Do you speak German?’ We hated going to
Yet those nine months in Switzerland ended up shaping Winston’s life.
Winston went on to earn degrees in German from Smith College and Yale
University. In 1970, she was hired at Wesleyan as an instructor. Now a full
professor and chair of the German Studies Department, Winston is concluding
her 35th year at Wesleyan.
“I feel grateful for all the ways in which Wesleyan has allowed me to
contribute,” Winston says. “I’m thankful for the opportunities I have had to
learn in the course of committee service; for the friendship, support, and
intellectual stimulation I receive from my colleagues in the department; for
the joy of working with bright students in the classroom, and for the chance
to act locally while thinking globally.”
At Wesleyan, Winston has taught more than 20 different courses in German and
in English, including Dada and Expressionism, Thomas Mann, The Simple Life,
The German Volksstück, and Giants of German Literature. She also regularly
teaches language courses.
In addition to teaching, Winston coordinates the Mellon Mays Undergraduate
Fellowship, a highly selective mentoring program that prepares students of
color for graduate study and eventual careers as professors. She also serves
as advisor to the Student Judicial Board. Since 1979 she has been the campus
Fulbright Advisor, and she also guides students applying for
Connecticut–Baden-Württemberg Exchange and German Academic Exchange Service
Winston is demanding of her applicants, who include seniors, graduate
students and alumni. She has been known to ask students to revise their
application essays as many as 10 times. This year, of 17 Fulbright
applicants, seven received grants and two were named alternates.
“I love working with the grant applicants,” she says. “I get to meet some of
the brightest seniors and alumni, and much of my work with them involves
Robert Conn, associate professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and
associate professor of Latin American Studies, says his colleague is one of
the most committed and generous educators he knows. He admires her voluntary
roles as advisor of the Mellon-Mays and Fulbright Fellowship programs.
"In her commitment to both these programs, Krishna is selfless and
tireless," he says. "Fulbright recipients and Mellon Mays undergraduate
scholars owe Krishna a debt of gratitude. But so, too, do faculty at large
who like myself are inspired by her intelligence, generosity, and work
ethic. This institution would not be the same without her."
Such service, she says, is a tradition in Wesleyan’s German Studies
Department. The late German Professor T. Chadbourne Dunham was a driving
force behind bringing minority students to Wesleyan in the mid-60s, and
women to Wesleyan in the 70s. German Professor Lawrence E. Gemeinhardt was
Wesleyan’s first Fulbright advisor and advisor to all of Wesleyan’s foreign
German Professor A.S. Wensinger, now professor emeritus, taught in and
chaired the Freshman Humanities Program for many years and still serves on
the Landmarks Advisory Board. And Peter Frenzel, also professor of German
emeritus, took on the responsibility of training students to ring the South
College Bells and spearheading fundraising for new bells, served as Dean of
the Arts and Humanities and was Faculty Marshal.
“There was a sense of serving not just the department, but also Wesleyan and
the larger community,” Winston says.
She took over as chair of the Freshman Humanities Program, and served on the
Committee on Honors and General Education, the Wesleyan Press editorial
board, and the Planning Committee for the Language Laboratory. In 1993–94
she did a stint as acting Dean of the College.
Outside of Wesleyan, Winston has served as president, secretary, and
newsletter editor for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Association of
Teachers of German, as a trustee of the Independent Day School in
Middlefield, as an evaluator of books for publishers, as a member of the
Fulbright-Hays National Screening Committee for Germany, and as long-time
chair of the Middletown Resource Recycling Advisory Council. She has also
chaired Wesleyan’s United Way campaign. For several years she was a member
of the North End Action Team’s Housing Committee.
But these activities aren’t all that’s keeping her busy. Since her graduate
school days, Winston has been a professional translator. To date, she has
translated 25 books from German to English. She is currently working on
Peter Handke’s 750-page novel “Crossing the Sierra de Gredos.”. She has also
translated Günter Grass’s “Two States, One Nation,” “Too Far Afield,” and
“Günter Grass invites all his translators to Germany and goes over the book
we will be translating page by page with us, answering any questions and
providing a running commentary,” she says. “It is a rare privilege for a
translator to work so closely with an author.”
For her translation of Grass’s “Too Far Afield,” Winston received the
Schlegel-Tieck prize and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize,
conferred by the German government.
“Translating is an art as well as a craft,” Winston says. “First, you have
to plunge into the work, and try to capture the sound and rhythm of the
text. After I complete the rough draft, I go over the manuscript at least
four times, reading each sentence aloud to myself. It is a slow process and
requires a great deal of what the Germans call Sitzfleisch, or persistence,
but to get a sentence just right is such a satisfaction.”
Winston plans to continue working through her parents’ papers, which include
a wealth of materials on writers exiled from Hitler’s Germany. She started
this research three years ago, while she was a visiting fellow at the Kahn
Liberal Arts Institute at Smith College, and her paper about 'Second-Class
Refugees' appeared this year in volume of essays that grew out of the
Institute’s “Anatomy of Exile” project.
“Often I’m working 18 hours a day,” she says, smiling. “But the things I do
are so varied and interesting that they keep my energy up.”
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection