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Scholarship and Autobiography

Paul Fussell


Fussell (1924-2012) was a Rutgers professor of English for 28 years (1955-1983). At first well-known as a scholar of eighteenth century English literature, Fussell went on to be a strong critic of war and social class beginning with perhaps his most influential book, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), about the romantic myth and reality of war in World War I. In this essay, he argues that all humanistic research involves an element of autobiography in them, but it became more prominent in this book and subsequent works of because of his own experience as a soldier in the World War II. He was almost obsessed by the image of “my strange marble boys,” his fellow dead soldiers on the battle fields in 1944. Through the art of writing scholarship, he was able to objectify these images, purge himself of them, and move on.

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