University dons embarking on a work of criticism seem compelled to produce an academic ID, explaining where they stand in the minefield of critical theory and where they are coming from, as if under interrogation by the thought-police. This is not for our benefit, but to spike the guns of other dons. Valentine Cunningham, who is a very clever chap, spends time in British Writers of the Thirties defining the sort of criticism he is not writing. He has to run through the options, just to make it clear that he knows about poststructuralism, Derrida, and so on. He is forgiving about post-Saussurian semiotics ‘despite some of it more embarrassing bursts of recent notoriety’ (which sounds like something to do with trouble in the Church of England).