by Hans Skei, co-author and colleague
Per Winther (1947-2012)
Per Winther’s untimely death at the age of 65 has left us all in shock and terrible sadness. He had retired from his position as professor of American literature at the University of Oslo, but was still actively pursuing his good work in American and Canadian studies. Of the dead we only speak kindly. In the case of Per, one could not possibly find anything to say but the best and most laudatory. He was an unusually kind and pleasant person, harming nobody, always ready to help and support and take responsibility.
Per Winther was a central figure in American studies in Norway, Scandinavia, and Europe during many decades. He chaired the Norwegian association for American Studies from 2003 to 2006, as well as the Norwegian section of the Nordic Association for Canadian Studies (1993-1996), and edited American Studies in Scandinavia (2004-2007). Scholars from many countries remember his active participation in many conferences over the years, and will miss him sadly at conferences in the years to come.
Per Winther received his doctorate from the University of Oslo in 1985 on a study of John Gardner, published in 1992 as The Art of John Gardner: Instruction and Exploration. He began his university career as assistant professor in 1984, and became full professor in 1995. His whole career was at the University of Oslo, where he also contributed significantly as chairman of the Department of British and American Studies (1995-1997) and as the very first chairman of the then newly established Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages (2003-2006).
Per Winther’s most important publications after the book on John Gardner are the two anthologies on short fiction theory and analysis – The Art of Brevity (2004) and Less Is More (2008). Jakob Lothe and I worked with Per to establish what he later named “The Oslo Seminars in Short Fiction”. We organized two international conferences, in 2001 and 2004, and Per’s contact with leading international scholars in the field was decisive in making both the seminars and the publications based on them successful. The fact that the University of South Carolina Press brought out The Art of Brevity in a paperback version in 2011, is proof enough. In addition to the books, Per published articles on writers such as Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Lowell, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, as well as on Canadian short fiction.
Per Winther supervised Are Skei’s doctoral dissertation on Wallace Stevens, a poet who offers serious resistance for any literary scholar. It is a tribute to Per’s range of interest and his literary competence that he handled also this with friendliness and a smile, combined with acute critical awareness.
We loved him, and we shall miss him, and remember him kindly, although “Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land for the living and a land for the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Hans H. Skei