Paul Fussell is a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, a specialist in eighteenth century literature who first came to attention outside the academy in 1975 with the publication of The Great War and Modern Memory. That book earned him a reputation as a cultural historian of considerable acumen. A study of literary responses to the First World War, the book established the centrality of the experience of the trenches in shaping the modern imagination of war.
Since then, Fussell’s work, while almost always lively, has rarely lived up to the high standard of his first foray beyond a specialized readership. More and more he seems to adopt scornful, embattled postures, substituting a ready sardonicism an...
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