Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem presented a talk, “The Wehrmacht Past, the Bundeswehr, and the Politics of Remembrance in Contemporary Germany,” at the meeting of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences (CAAS), April 12.
Grimmer-Solem also is associate professor of German studies and a tutor in the College of Social Sciences. His expertise is in modern German history with specializations in economic history, the history of economic thought, and the history of social reform. He has also developed research interests in German imperialism, German-Japanese relations before 1918, and Germany in the two world wars.
Grimmer-Solem discussed his research, which uncovered the involvement of a Wehrmacht general, honored in public as a member of the military resistance to Hitler, in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity. He discussed how his findings were received by the German public, how that resulted in the official renaming of an air force base, and what that reveals about German perceptions of the war of destruction waged in the Soviet Union by the German army. The talk explored the deep involvement of the Wehrmacht in the Holocaust, the Janus-faced nature of many members of the German military resistance, and the ongoing problem of basing contemporary Germany’s military tradition and “official memory” on aspects of this tainted legacy.
CAAS, chartered in 1799, is the third-oldest learned society in the United States. Its purpose is to disseminate scholarly information through lectures and publications. It sponsors eight monthly presentations during the academic year, hosted by Wesleyan and Yale, that are free and open to the public, allowing anyone to hear distinguished speakers discuss current work in the sciences, arts, and humanities.
Leo Lensing, professor of film studies, is the author of a review essay titled “Fritz Lang, man of the eye. On the Edgar Allan Poe of German Cinema,” published in the June 15 issue of the Times Literary Supplement (London). The TLS cover article takes stock of Fritz Lang. Die Biographie (Propyläen Verlag, 2014), the first full-length biography in German of the great Austrian-German filmmaker Fritz Lang (1890-1976), and compares it unfavorably with Fritz Lang. The Nature of the Beast, the standard American life by Patrick McGilligan.
Lang’s reputation, Lensing writes, continues to be linked primarily to two films he made during the Weimar Republic: “the famous blockbuster flop Metropolis (1927)”; and M (1931), “the infamously empathetic profile of a serial killer, which Lang often called his favorite. Metropolis, still often categorized as ‘a flawed masterpiece’ by film scholars, has become even more popular and influential. Every metropolitan dystopia from Blade Runner to Batman Returns owes something to its visionary scenario of a technologically unhinged future.”
Lensing writes that “Grob’s treatment of the monumental making of this ‘urtext of cinematic modernity’ (Thomas Elsaesser) typifies his biography’s modest virtues. Grob’s narrative often veers between compact scenarios and long, thinly fleshed-out lists of people met, films seen, theater performances attended, art exhibitions visited and, especially, women wined and dined. While this enhanced name-dropping with its litany of intellectual, artistic and erotic contacts can be beguiling, the overall effect raises questions of the kind for which a biographer should supply answers.”
This fall, the German Studies Department and German Embassy in Washington, D.C. are sponsoring a three-part commemoration of “25 Years of German Unity” at Wesleyan.
The series, which features discussions with a German filmmaker, a scholar from Connecticut College, and four Wesleyan faculty is made possible by a $3,000 grant from the German Embassy.
The first talk, “Gorbachev, Bush, and the Unification of Germany” on Sept. 22 featured Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Douglas Foyle, associate professor of government, who spoke on the important role that Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the U.S. played in the German unification process.
Krishna Winston with Breon Mitchell, another translator of Günter Grass, at a retrospective for the writer at CUNY Graduate Center on April 28. (Photo by Iris Bork-Goldfield).
On April 28, Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, spoke on a panel at the CUNY Graduate Center on Nobel Prize–winner Günter Grass, one of Germany’s best-known contemporary writers, who died earlier this month.
Winston, Grass’s translator, is also professor of German Studies, professor of environmental studies, and coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. She spoke alongside Professor Friedrich Ulfers of New York University and Breon Mitchell, professor emeritus at Indiana University, Bloomington. The event, which was standing-room only, was moderated by Ralph Bunche Institute Director John Torpey, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center.
When the Nobel Prize-winning German writer Günter Grass died at age 87 this week, The Wall Street Journal turned to Krishna Winston, his translator, for perspective on his life.
According to the Journal’s obituary, Grass was Germany’s best-known contemporary writer “who explored the country’s postwar guilt and in 2006 admitted to serving in one of the Nazis’ most notorious Nazi military units.”
Winston remembered Grass as “a gregarious man who loved cooking and invited his children to sit in on meetings with translators that often lasted several days…”
A commentary by Leo Lensing, chair and professor of German studies, professor of film studies, was featured in the Times Literary Supplement in January.
The commentary focuses on Austria’s exploitation of Karl Kraus’s great anti-war drama, The Last Days of Mankind, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Kraus first published the play in four special issues of his satirical journal Die Fackel (The Torch) in 1918–19.
“The red wrappers and the documentary photograph of Wilhelm II used as the frontispiece of the epilogue initially lent it the explosive impact of a revolutionary pamphlet,” Lensing writes in the commentary. “Kraus continued to revise and add new scenes based on information suppressed under war-time censorship, until the first book edition appeared in 1922.”
In 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic began constructing a 96-mile-long dividing wall in attempt to prevent Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state. The Berlin Wall, made of concrete and barbed wire, prevented emigration and more than 170 people were killed trying to cross or get around the wall. On Nov. 9, 1989, the head of the East German Communist party opened the checkpoint, allowing thousands of East and West Berlin residents to pass through. Elated residents, later known as “wallpeckers” used hammers and picks to break apart the wall.
In 1990, East and West Germany reunified into a single German state. To date, the wall serves as a symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War.
In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German Studies Department is hosting a series of lectures.
At noon, Sept. 24, Eric Grimmer-Solem will speak on
At a special Reunion & Commencement appearance with all ticket sales going to financial aid, Amanda Palmer ’98 played the piano and the ukulele and joyfully performed a set of her inimitable songs on the stage in Crowell Concert Hall on May 24. Her husband, Neil Gaiman, winner of writing honors from the Newbery Medal to the Hugo Award to the Will Eisner Comic Award, read from his work and joined Palmer in fielding questions from a rapt audience of alumni, parents and students.
Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, is the translator of Patrick Roth’s Starlight Terrace, published by Seagull Books in 2012.
In a rundown Los Angeles apartment building—the titular Starlite Terrace—Roth unfurls the tragic linked stories of Rex, Moss, Gary and June, four neighbors, in a sort of burlesque of the Hollywood modern. In each of their singular collisions with fame, Roth’s dark prose presages a universal and mythical fate of desperation.
In “The Man at Noah’s Window,” Rex shares the story of his father, a supposed hand double for Gary Cooper in High Noon. In “Eclipse of the Sun,” Moss, who lives in fear of the next holocaust, awaits a visit from the long-lost daughter he has tracked down. In “Rider on the Storm,” Gary, a rock drummer and born-again Christian, who “almost played” on the Turtles’ 60s-hit “Happy Together,” strives to find escape from his personal guilt. And in “The Woman in the Sea of Stars,” June, a former Hollywood studio secretary whose husband once cheated on her with Marilyn Monroe, makes the best of a disconnected life until she emerges reborn through ashes strewn in the illuminated swimming pool of the Starlite Terrace.
Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, will attend a translators working meeting with Günter Grass Feb. 10-14 in Lübeck, Germany. Grass, 85, is novelist, poet, playwright, artist and sculptor. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999.
Winston has translated several of Grass’s works, including his 1990 diary, From Germany to Germany, which was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in November 2012.
This will be Winston’s fourth meeting with Grass and fellow translators. The group will focus the discussion on Grass’s poetry, autobiographical writings and artwork.
“It’s a pretty special thing when translators can sit down with the author for several days and hear from him directly what they should pay attention to, what was in his mind when he wrote certain passages, and what historical, political, literary, or other background they may need in order to get the translation right,” Winston said.
Grass maintains an office in a historic building immediately adjacent to the GG Haus, a museum dedicated to literature and the visual arts, with a special emphasis on Grass’s work in both areas and on other artists with multiple talents.
Ulrich Plass, associate professor of German studies, presented a talk titled “Metaphysics and the Body: Adorno and Nietzsche on Living Rightly” at the Philosophy Department of the University of South Florida in April. His lecture compared Nietzsche’s philosophy of the body with Adorno’s attempts to ground an ethics of the good in somatic experience, i.e., in the spontaneous articulation of impulses.