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Can a bout of laziness or a digressive spell actually open up paths to creativity and unexpected insights? In Obstruction Nick Salvato suggests that for those engaged in scholarly pursuits laziness, digressiveness, and related experiences can be paradoxically generative. Rather than being dismissed as hindrances, these obstructions are to be embraced, clung to, and reoriented. Analyzing an eclectic range of texts and figures, from the Greek Cynics and Denis Diderot to Dean Martin and the Web series Drunk History, Salvato finds value in five obstructions: embarrassment, laziness, slowness, cynicism, and digressiveness. Whether listening to Tori Amos's music as a way to think about embarrassment, linking the MTV series Daria to using cynicism to negotiate higher education's corporatized climate, or examining the affect of slowness in Kelly Reichardt's films, Salvato expands our conceptions of each obstruction and shows ways to transform them into useful provocations. With a unique, literary, and self-reflexive voice, Salvato demonstrates the importance of these debased obstructions and shows how they may support alternative modes of intellectual activity. In doing so, he impels us to rethink the very meanings of thinking, work, and value.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii Introduction. Trafficking in Five Obstructions 1 1. Embarrassment 33 2. Laziness 63 3. Slowness 95 4. Cynicism 127 5. Digressiveness 157 Conclusion. Sober Futurity 193 Notes 205 Bibliography 233 Index 251

About the Author

Nick Salvato is Associate Professor and Chair of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University and the author of Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance.


"Whether laziness or cynicism, it seems there is a way to utilize such obstructions for creativity and productivity, but only by embracing them as offering valuable constraints, and not by treating them as presenting obstacles to dissolve or overcome. Obstruction makes a clear argument for the use value of affect for cognitive activity, especially, creativity in thinking." -- Karen Simecek * Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory * "Whether identifying as academics or intellectuals, yoga instructors or closet fans of Tori Amos, readers of Obstruction are certain to discover that there is immense pleasure and great value to be gained from an absorptive encounter with Nick Salvato's embarrassing, lazy, slow, cynical, digressive act of scholarly labour. As Obstruction reminds us: if it's broke, don't fix it." -- Amy Holzapfel * Modern Drama * "Through an often breathtaking range of cultural readings, Salvato (performing and media arts, Cornell) offers new ways to think about traits that are normally seen as obstructions or impediments to creative or scholarly projects. . . . here is little doubt that graduate students and early-career academics, especially those in the humanities, will find this book a source of affirmation, encouragement, and transformation. Essential. All readers." -- M. Uebel * Choice *

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