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Paul Fussell

Lt. Paul Fussell in Paris, France, May 1945
Born March 22, 1924 (1924-03-22) (age 85)
Pasadena, California
Occupation Educator; Historian; Social critic; Author
Genres Non-fiction
Notable award(s) National Book Award for Arts and Letters; National Book Critics Circle Award; Ralph Waldo Emerson Award. Military awards-- Purple Heart; Bronze Star

Paul Fussell, Ph.D. (born March 22, 1924) is a cultural and literary historian, and professor emeritus of English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of books on eighteenth-century English literature, the world wars, and social class, among others.


Early life

Paul Fussell was born in Pasadena, California, USA, the second of three children [1]. His father, Paul Longstreth Fussell (15 January 1895-16 July 1973), was a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles with the firm of O’Melveny & Myers. His mother was born Wilhma Wilson Sill in Illinois 21 August 1893 and died 23 March 1971 [2].

Military service

Fussell was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, at age 19. In October 1944 he landed in France, as part of the 103rd Infantry Division. On November 11, he experienced his first night on the front lines. He was wounded while fighting in France as a second lieutenant in the infantry, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Fussell suffered from depression and rage for years following his military service. In his 1996 autobiography[2] he associated those problems with the dehumanization of his military service and his anger at the way the United States government and popular culture romanticized warfare. Since the 1980s Fussell has been an outspoken critic of the glorification of armed conflicts [3]. An early influence was H. L. Mencken, but he shed Mencken as a mentor, calling him "deficient in the tragic sense", after his wartime experience.[2]

Education and teaching career

Dr. Fussell spent his undergraduate years at Pomona College, and earned a Ph. D. at Harvard University. He has taught at Connecticut College, Rutgers University, the University of Heidelberg, King's College London, and the University of Pennsylvania [4]. He retired from teaching in the mid-1990s.

Personal life

His first wife, Betty Fussell, a food writer and biographer, whom he met at Pomona College, has written a memoir, My Kitchen Wars[5], that discusses their more than 30 years of marriage in highly negative terms, including allegations that Fussell had adulterous affairs with both men and women.

Fussell now lives in Philadelphia, with his second wife, Harriette Behringer. They met in 1983, when she sent him a postcard introducing herself, after reading an article about him. Now retired, she worked in journalism and public relations. His son, Samuel Fussell, is the author of Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder.[6] His brother Edwin Sill Fussell was also a professor of English literature.[7]

Awards and honors

Fussell's 1975 literary study The Great War and Modern Memory (1975) won the National Book Award for Arts and Letters, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa.[2] Military historian John Keegan calls it a "simply superb book".

Fussell was one of several veterans interviewed in the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary The War in 2007.


  • Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (1965)
  • The Rhetorical World of Augustan Humanism: Ethics and Imagery from Swift to Burke (1965)
  • Theory of Prosody in Eighteenth-Century England (1966)
  • Eighteenth-Century English Literature (1969) editor with Geoffrey Tillotson and Marshall Waingrow
  • Samuel Johnson and The Life of Writing (1971)
  • English Augustan Poetry (1972)
  • The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)
  • The Ordeal of Alfred M. Hale: The Memoirs of a Soldier Servant (1975) editor
  • Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars (1980)
  • The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations (1982)
  • Sassoon's Long Journey (1983) editor, from The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston
  • Class, A Guide Through the American Status System (1983)
  • Caste Marks: Style and Status in the USA (1984)
  • The Norton Book of Travel (1987) editor
  • Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988)
  • Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989)
  • BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991)
  • The Bloody Game: An Anthology of Modern War (1991)
  • The Norton Book of Modern War (1991) editor
  • The Anti-Egotist. Kingsley Amis: Man of Letters (1994)
  • Doing Battle - The Making of a Skeptic (1996) autobiography
  • Uniforms : Why We Are What We Wear (2002)
  • The Boys’ Crusade : The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 (2003)


  1. ^, Accessed 10-4-2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Fussell P: Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic, Little Brown & Co., New York, NY, 1996.
  3. ^ Fussell P: The Boys' Crusade, Modern Library, New York, NY, 2003.
  4. ^ Accessed 8-31-2009
  5. ^ Fussell B: My Kitchen Wars, North Point Press, New York, NY, 2000.
  6. ^ Fussell SW: Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Body-Builder, Harper-Collins, New York, NY, 1992.
  7. ^ Cohen AJJ. "In Memoriam-- Edwin Sill Fussell, Professor Emeritus of Literature, 1922-2002", Accessed 8-31-2009.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Paul Fussell (born March 22, 1924, Pasadena, California) is a cultural historian, professor emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, and author of books on eighteenth-century English literature, World War II, and social class.


The Boys' Crusade (2003)

[Random House, New York, 2003. ISBN: 0-679-64088-6]

  • To those on both sides who suffered.
    • The dedication
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