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What can Brad Pitt teach academics? Professor deconstructs celebrity in new book

September 23, 2014

“Why bother?” “What’s your problem?” “What are English professors doing these days?” “Well, he ruined Montana!” These are some of the odd reactions Loyola University New Orleans associate professor of English Chris Schaberg, Ph.D., received after telling people of his work on an academic book about adopted Crescent City resident Brad Pitt.

A book signing and presentation for “Deconstructing Brad Pitt”—just published this month—is set for Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books, located at 513 Octavia St. in New Orleans. A portion of total sales from the book, available from most retailers, will be donated to Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation.

The book is not simply a multifaceted analysis of Pitt as an actor and as a celebrity, but is also a personal inquiry into how the public is drawn to, turned on or otherwise piqued by Pitt's performances and personae.

“The book evaluates ideas we project onto Pitt, whether these are notions of masculinity, power, or sexuality. It’s also a reality check on our culture. What are the things we invest in Pitt and why? This book is less about him as a person, but more about these myths and ideas that we’ve come to associate with or want from Brad Pitt.”

“Deconstructing Brad Pitt,” co-edited by Schaberg and Robert Bennett, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Montana State University-Bozeman, includes contributions from 13 different academics throughout the U.S. and U.K. The collection comprises a playful yet serious analysis of the life and career of Pitt. Chapters include “Romantic Hero,” “Becoming Brad” and “Art Muse.”

Schaberg received research assistance for the book from three Loyola students, including current senior Erin Little, and recent graduates Emma Grimsley ‘14 and Stewart Sinclair ‘14. The book also includes an introductory note from homegrown actor and former “Mad Men” star Bryan Batt and artwork by former Loyola graphic design professor Nancy Bernardo.

The idea for the book came to Schaberg over a dozen years ago when he was a graduate student at Montana State University, writing about depictions of the American West. It was a time when Pitt was known for his roles in films like “Legends of the Fall” and “A River Runs Through It.” Schaberg joked with his then-professor and mentor, Bennett, that they should write a book about it. Schaberg revisited the idea in 2010 while at Loyola; he put a call out for papers and got an overwhelming response.

When Schaberg came to Loyola, he quickly realized Brad Pitt meant a whole other set of things to people in the community, including his roles in social justice and local politics, including a brief campaign to get him to run for mayor.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at Loyola at 504-861-5888.

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