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".

Born and raised in Pasadena, California, 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 trimmer in Illinois. His brother, Edwin Sill Fussell, was an author, poet, and professor of American Studies at the University of California, San Diego; his sister Florence Fussell Lind lives in Berkeley, California.

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 Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder.

Fussell attended Pomona College 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. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married fellow Pomona graduate Betty Harper in 1949, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University.

He began his teaching career at Connecticut College (1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania 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 from the 1950s to 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 Betty and married Harriette Behringer. He retired from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and lived with his wife in Oregon.