Breu, Christopher 1968–

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Breu, Christopher 1968–


Born February 8, 1968, in New York, NY; son of H. Joseph (a writer) and Giovanna (a writer) Breu; married Elizabeth A. Hatmaker (a poet and professor), March 7, 2003. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1991;University of California, Santa Cruz, Ph.D., 2000. Hobbies and other interests: Music listening and collecting.


Home— Normal, IL. Office— English Department, Illinois State University, Box 4240, Normal, IL 61790-4240. E-mail— [email protected].


Illinois State University, Normal, associate professor, 2000—.


Modern Language Association, American Studies Association, Modernist Studies Association.


Teaching Initiative Award, Illinois State University, College of Arts and Sciences, 2003; Dean's Award for Scholarly Achievement, Illinois State University College of Arts and Sciences, 2006.


Hard-Boiled Masculinities, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.

Also contributor to Re-Placing America: Conversations and Contestations, edited by Ruth Hsu, Cynthia Franklin, and Suzanne Kosanke, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 2000, and to numerous periodicals including Men and Masculinities, Modernism/Modernity, Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies, Journal of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters, Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society, and Culture and Politics.


Christopher Breu was born into a family of writers on February 8, 1968. Both his father, H. Joseph Breu, and his mother, Giovanna Breu, were writers, and he followed in their footsteps. Breu added another writer to his family in 2003 when he married Elizabeth A. Hatmaker, a poet and professor.

Breu graduated from Northwestern University and later earned his doctorate in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2000, he joined the English faculty at Illinois State University, where he has earned awards for both his teaching and his research skills. In a faculty profile of Breu on the university's College of Arts and Sciences Web site, one of Breu's colleagues, Dr. Tim Hunt, said that what makes Breu a superior teacher and researcher is that he "is willing to color outside the lines." Hunt continued, "He is committed to asking provocative questions and willing to consider provocative answers." In the same profile, Breu discussed his love of teaching, explaining that he enjoys "the intellectual give and take" between teachers and students—how the two parties stimulate each other with fresh ideas and new challenges.

In 2005, Breu published his first book,Hard-Boiled Masculinities, which examines the emergence of the "tough guy" persona—the hard-boiled male—in literature produced between the first and second world wars. In the book, Breu discusses characters created by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Chester Himes, and William Faulkner, among others. He offers an explanation of how and why appearances of this type of masculinity—characterized by physical strength, a disregard for moral values, and a lack of emotion—increased at this point in history. In a review of Hard-Boiled Masculinities for PopMatters, Justin Cober-Lake pointed out that "Breu explores the cultural fantasies and material conditions that intersect with this type, and he seeks for both a historical understanding and a contemporary use for this work." Cober-Lake further wrote, "The importance of Breu's examination lies in his ability to escape determinist readings of the texts."

In addition to Hard-Boiled Masculinities, Breu has written for numerous periodicals including Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies, Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters, Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture & Society, Culture and Politics, Men and Masculinities, and Modernism/Modernity. He also contributed to the book Re-Placing America: Conversations and Contestations, a collection of essays and poems.

Breu told CA: "My interest in writing probably stems from growing up in a family of writers. Writing in my family was the stuff of everyday life. Writing, for my parents, was important not only as a career, or as a means of expression, but much more significantly as a contribution to public culture and public knowledge. I try to bring the same kind of commitment to my writing.

"My writing is influenced by issues at once scholarly, political, and personal. On a scholarly level, I want my writing to make original contributions to the new interdisciplinary and theoretical forms of knowledge that have emerged in the humanities in the last thirty years or so. My scholarship draws as much from the disciplines of history, sociology, cultural studies, and philosophy as it does from the discipline of literature. On the political level, I hope that my work can make a contribution, in its own small way, to forms of knowledge that can aid in the cause of social justice. Such is the aim of Hard-Boiled Masculinities, for instance. I hope that the book contributes to the project of crafting a less violent and more ethical version of masculinity than the one that has been historically dominant in American culture.

"On a personal level, I find that writing can be a place in which one can productively engage in the emotional and embodied challenges that one faces in life. It's perhaps a cliché that writing comes out of emotional discomfort, but for me, at least, the cliché has proven to be reasonably descriptive of one aspect of my writing process. With each book project I try to engage an issue that is not only socially relevant, but one in which I have an emotional stake. Thus,Hard-Boiled Masculinities owes part of its genesis to the discomfort I always felt with traditional definitions of masculinity.

"My writing process is pretty straightforward. I try to write for three hours per day, two to three times per week, depending on how busy I am with other work. I find that having a regular writing routine makes all the difference for being productive and avoiding writer's block. Writing is one of the great pleasures of my life. I love really getting into a topic; when I'm writing well, I am completely immersed in what I am doing with almost no cognizance of the passing of time. I also like writing as close to the intellectual and emotional edge as I can while remaining in an academic context. I find that from inhabiting such edges the best writing comes."



American Literature, December, 2006, Ryan Schneider, review of Hard-Boiled Masculinities, p. 884.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2006, review of Hard-Boiled Masculinities.


Illinois State University College of Arts and Sciences News Web site, (April 24, 2006), "2006 Dean's Awards Announced"; (February 26, 2007), "Faculty Profile: Christopher Breu."

Illinois State University Media Relations Web site, (October 10, 2006), Kathy Beal, "Illinois State Announces Faculty Promotions and Tenure."

PopMatters, (December, 2005), Justin Cober-Lake, review of Hard-Boiled Masculinities.

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Breu, Christopher 1968–

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