Paul Fussell

The American cultural historian Paul Fussell held a personal disdain for anyone who would glorify war. After years of teaching 18th century British literature, in 1975 he crossed from academic to public intellectual with The Great War and Modern Memory, a seminal book examining how World War I, by its scope and immense carnage, caused a disillusionment that plagued Western society for decades. "The Great War was more ironic than any before or since," he wrote. "It reversed the idea of Progress."

But Fussell, who died May 23 at 88, had earned his scorn for war like few other critics. As...

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