PORTLAND, Ore. -- Paul Fussell, an acclaimed literary scholar who won a National Book Award in 1976 for "The Great War and Modern Memory," died Wednesday morning at age 88.
His stepson Cole Behringer said Fussell died of natural causes in a long-term care facility in Medford, Ore. Behringer said his mother and stepfather moved to southern Oregon two years ago from Rochester, N.Y.
In works published over a 50-year career, Fussell wrote memoirs, literary criticism, social commentary and standard English Department fare on topics such as English literature and poetic theory. He made his greatest mark writing about war, a subject he knew well, and his disdain for its romanticization.
Fussell enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and was later awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"At first it was rather fun," he said in a 1997 PBS interview with David Gergen. "It was fast, and amusing, and so forth, and then all of a sudden one realized what the infantry was for. It was for killing the maximum number of young men like you." His writings would be forever influenced by the horrors he witnessed.
"Great War and Modern Memory" used the work of English poets and authors to demonstrate how war is romanticized and idealized, turned into moral and religious parable, and what happens when the reality of war overwhelms the dream of it.
A lawyer's son, Fussell was born and raised in Pasadena, Calif., and graduated from Pomona College. He earned his advanced degrees from Harvard and later taught at Connecticut College, Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania.