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Krishna 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 Grass.

 
Posted 05.23.05

Professor of German Studies Concludes                 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 school.”

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 grants.

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 teaching writing."

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 students.

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 “Crabwalk.”

“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.”
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor