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.
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
"Joining gorgeous readings to new critical vocabularies and startling insights, Obstruction rewards the close and slow reader. And like the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick or Lauren Berlant, José Esteban Muñoz or Lee Edelman, it creates paradigms that, once absorbed, become difficult to think without."
Jack Halberstam, author of
The Queer Art of Failure
"Offering a capacious analysis of the familiar blocks to creative and critical productivity, Nick Salvato models a cutting-edge criticism that remains alert to the significance of language and the ruse of intentionality. Obstruction is a provocative work and a pioneering venture in modeling a critical reading practice of the present."
Tavia Nyong'o, author of
The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory
"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."
"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."
Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory