Paul Fussell, the historian and Penn professor, died yesterday. His most visible work concerned World War I and II*, but in 1983 he gave us Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, which we mention here for Fussell’s rift on the middle-class appeal of the Ivy League:
Archaic and good colleges like Princeton and Yale are used for status definition and support by exemplary Americans like F. Scott Fitzgerald and John O’Hara. Although neither managed to graduate from the top-class college of his choice, and although O’Hara never even got to attend his, pursuing for life the fantasy that he might have gone to Yale and leafing through the yearbook for 1924, which would have been his class, both promoted their colleges to the status of holy places, sacred sodalities to which they could redeem themselves by belonging. Each would have affixed his rear-window sticker with utmost reverence. They were team players both, like so many members of the middle class, and could hardly imagine their identity unless attached to an institution.