“No Crisis” considers the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. The last several years have been an era of crisis for the academic humanities, traditionally the home of the interpretive disciplines. Across the system of education in the United States there are, in fact, many crises. For our part, we see the crisis as the effect of economic and administrative decisions, not a failure of ideas. So, we asked a group of eminent critics to choose a recent critical text and to write about why it matters: not to coolly evaluate it but to stand and think with a critic whose writing they value. The essays produced are works of criticism in themselves; in them, and with “No Crisis,” we hope to show that the art of criticism is flourishing, rich with intellectual power and sustaining beauty, in hard times.
Our culture values striving, purpose, achievement, and accumulation. This book asks us to get sidetracked along the way. It praises aimlessness as a source of creativity and an alternative to the demand for linear, efficient, instrumentalist thinking and productivity.
Aimlessness collects ideas and stories from around the world that value indirection, wandering, getting lost, waiting, meandering, lingering, sitting, laying about, daydreaming, and other ways to be open to possibility, chaos, and multiplicity. Tom Lutz considers aimlessness as a fundamental human proclivity and method, one that has been vilified by modern industrial societies but celebrated by many religious traditions, philosophers, writers, and artists. He roams a circular path that snakes and forks down sideroads, traipsing through modernist art, nomadic life, slacker comedies, drugs, travel, nirvana, and oblivion. The book is structured as a recursive, disjunctive spiral of short sections, a collage of narrative, anecdotal, analytic, and lyrical passages—intended to be read aimlessly, to wind up someplace unexpected.
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