As I work on a self-description for the purposes of combing out the tangles in our curriculum, I’m beginning to wonder whether it would be apt to identify me as a post-Derridean New Critic. I relish close reading; I appreciate the nuanced differences that words make; I do believe in the importance of classic works; I disavow the Intentional and Affective Fallacies. But I also recognise the political-interpretive effects of power, class, race, gender, and so on; I don’t believe that the words make things happen on their own, nor that “words” constitute an inherently privileged expressive medium; I reject the “institution of will into reason” that Lyotard found in the genome of liberal rationalism; I appreciate contributions to semiotics from such unusual contexts as information design (Tufte), comics theory (McCloud), digital media (Weinberger, Shirky, Lessig, et al.), and rock music.
A former colleague referred to me as a “postmodern Victorian,” which admittedly applies to me in non-vocational ways — but it’s hard to come up with a short label that accurately characterises my project(s). Everyone thinks she or he is unique, and but I’d rather (for these purposes) know who or what I’m like, the better to convey a helpful impression to prospective students.