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James Winn, 71, Dryden Biographer and a Skilled Flutist, Dies

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In 1960 the family moved to Louisville, Ky., and Professor Winn was able to study the flute with Francis Fuge, the principal flutist of the Louisville Symphony. He graduated from Atherton High School in Louisville in 1964.

Years later, in a 1988 interview with The Times — when Professor Winn, then teaching at the University of Michigan, had just published the Dryden biography — he commented on how being raised in the South, with its rich history, had influenced him.

“We grew up with a very large sense of the past,” he said. “What I found attractive about the age of Dryden and Pope at the time I fell in love with it was that it seemed to me old and fine, elegant and polished, complex in ways that I didn’t then understand — and don’t now.”

Professor Winn attended Princeton, where Dr. Freeman, then a junior faculty member there, encouraged him to continue studying music even as he pursued an English degree. He performed with the university orchestra and even sang with the Footnotes, an a cappella group of which he was also music director. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1968, then spent two years in the Army, playing flute in the Continental Army Band.

He received a Ph.D. from Yale in 1974, writing his dissertation on Pope’s letters, a subject he turned into his first book, “A Window in the Bosom,” in 1977.

Professor Winn taught at Yale from 1974 to 1983, then went to the University of Michigan, where he was founding director of its Institute for the Humanities.

Professor Winn’s father, who was active in the civil rights movement, published a book in 1993 called “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More: Biblical Ambiguity and the Abolition of War,” and in 2008 Professor Winn took up a related area in “The Poetry of War.”


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