Paul Fussell : biography
Paul Fussell (22 March 1924 – 23 May 2012) was an American cultural and literary historian, author and university professor. His writings cover a variety of topics, from scholarly works on eighteenth-century English literature to commentary on America's class system. He is best known for his writings about World War I and II, which explore what he felt was the gap between the romantic myth and reality of war; he made a "career out of refusing to disguise it or elevate it".
Writing and teaching career
When he first entered college, Fussell intended a career in journalism. His plans changed when his sergeant was killed beside him in combat, about which he wrote in his memoir Doing Battle (1996).Fussell, P. (1996). Doing battle: The making of a skeptic. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. In his writings, he opposed war promoting instead a vision of rational enlightenment. He pointed to what he saw as the hypocrisy of governmental speech and the corruption of popular culture.
His published thesis, Theory of Prosody in Eighteenth-Century England, was developed into Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (1965), a popular textbook for understanding poetry.Fussell, P. (1965). Poetic Meter and Poetic Form. New York: New York, Random House Samuel Johnson and The Life of Writing (1971)Fussell, P. (1971). Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich offered an analysis of the work of the English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson. The Anti-Egotist, Kingsley Amis: Man of Letters was a study of the life and work of friend and colleague, Kingsley Amis.Fussell, P. (1994). The Anti-Egotist: Kingsley Amis, Man of Letters, Oxford University Press
The award-winning The Great War and Modern Memory (1975)Fussell, P. (2000). The Great War and Modern Memory, Oxford University Press was a cultural and literary analysis of the impact of the Great War on the development of modern literature and modern literary conventions. John Keegan said its effect was "revolutionary", in that it showed how literature could be a vehicle for expressing the experience of large groups. "What Paul did was go to the literary treatments of the war by 20 or 30 participants and turn them into an encapsulation of a collective European experience"., Susanna Rustin, The Guardian, 31 July 2004
Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars (1980) was a pioneering academic examination of travel literature which examined the travel books of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, D. H. Lawrence and Robert Byron.
Fussell stated that he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983)Fussell, P. (1983). Class: A guide through the american status system. New York: Summit Books and indulged his increasing public status as a loved or hated "curmudgeon" in the rant called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991). In between, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988)Fussell, P. (1988). Thank god for the atom bomb and other essays. New York Summit Books confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989).Fussell, P. (1989). Wartime: Understanding and behavior in the second world war. New York: Oxford University Press The epiphany of his earlier essay, "My War", found full expression in his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), "My Adolescent illusions, largely intact to that moment, fell away all at once, and I suddenly knew I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just". The last book by Fussell published while he was alive, The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–45 (2003)Fussell, P. (2003). The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944–1945. New York: Modern Library was once again concerned with the experience of combat in World War II.
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