is an American cultural and literary historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...
, author and university professor. His writings cover a variety of genres, 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.
Born and raised in Pasadena, California
Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although famous for hosting the annual Rose Bowl football game and Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena is the home to many scientific and cultural institutions, including the California Institute of Technology , the Jet...
, USA, Fussell was the second of three children. His father, Paul Fussell (1895–1973), son of a widowed schoolteacher, became a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles with the firm of O’Melveny & Myers. His mother, Wilhma Wilson Sill (1893–1971), was the daughter of a carriage maker in Illinois. His brother, Edwin Sill Fussell, was an author, poet, and professor of American Studies at the University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego, commonly known as UCSD or UC San Diego, is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, United States...
; his sister Florence Fussell Lind lives in Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...
His daughter, Rosalind, is an artist-teacher in Arizona and the author of a graphic novel, Mammoir: A Pictorial Odyssey of the Adventures of a Fourth Grade Teacher with Breast Cancer
. His son, Samuel Wilson Fussell, a writer and hunter in Montana, is the author of the cult classic Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder
Fussell attended Pomona College
Pomona College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Founded in 1887 in Pomona, California by a group of Congregationalists, the college moved to Claremont in 1889 to the site of a hotel, retaining its name. The school enrolls 1,548 students.The founding member...
from 1941 until he enlisted in the US Army in 1943. He landed in France in 1944 as a 20 year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division, was wounded while fighting in Alsace, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York...
. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married in 1949 a fellow Pomona graduate, Betty Harper
Betty Harper Fussell is an American food writer. She authored The Story of Corn, an in-depth study of the plant as a crop, religion, and culture...
, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...
He began his teaching career at Connecticut College
Connecticut College is a private liberal arts college located in New London, Connecticut.The college was founded in 1911, as Connecticut College for Women, in response to Wesleyan University closing its doors to women...
(1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...
in 1983. He also taught at the University of Heidelberg (1957–58) and King’s College London (1990–92). As a teacher, he travelled widely with his family throughout Europe during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, taking Fulbright and sabbatical years in Germany, England and France.
Betty Fussell, has described their marriage and its breakup in 1981 in her memoir, My Kitchen Wars
. After Fussell moved from his home in Princeton, New Jersey, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he divorced his first wife and married Harriette Behringer. He retired from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and currently lives with his wife in Oregon.
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, as he writes in his memoir Doing Battle
(1996). 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
, became Poetic Meter and Form
(1954), a popular textbook for understanding poetry. Samuel Johnson and The Life of Writing
(1971) underlay his admiration of The Ani-Egotist, Kingsley Amis: Man of Letters
His attention to England's civilized society was prologue to his most important book, The Great War and Modern Memory
(1975). John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...
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."
Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars
(1980) was a pioneering academic examination of travel literature
Travel literature is travel writing of literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or...
which examined the travel books of Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...
, Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...
, D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...
and Robert Byron
Robert Byron was a British travel writer, best known for his travelogue The Road to Oxiana. He was also a noted writer, art critic and historian....
He stated he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
(1983) 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) confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
(1989). 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". His most recent book, The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45
(2003) he again writes about his own war trauma.
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 Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...
, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
The National Book Critics Circle Award is an annual award given by the National Book Critics Circle to promote the finest books and reviews published in English....
, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa. It was listed as #75 in the Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century.
He was elected in 1977 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...
Fussell was one of several veterans interviewed in the Ken Burns
Kenneth Lauren "Ken" Burns is an American director and producer of documentary films, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs...
and Lynn Novick documentary The War
The War is a 2007 American seven-part documentary television mini-series about World War II from the perspective of the United States that premiered on September 23, 2007...
in 2007, and in the 1999 ABC-produced documentary The Century: America's Time
The Century: America's Time is a 15-part series of documentaries produced by the American Broadcasting Company on the 20th century and the rise of the United States as a superpower...
editor with Geoffrey Tillotson and Marshall Waingrow editor editor, from The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston
- this is the UK edition of Class
editor editor autobiography