Intellectuals have few responsibilities, but one is to know the refutations of their best ideas. Those of us who think the study of man is in decay have some responsibility, then, to pay attention to a recent pamphlet issued by the American Council of Learned Societies. Entitled “Speaking for the Humanities” and written by a committee of six academics, including George Levine (Darwin and the Novelists), Peter Brooks (Reading for the Plot), Jonathan Culler (The Pursuit of Signs), and E. Ann Kaplan (Postmodernism and Its Discontents), the pamphlet is a reply to critics of the humanities as they are taught and studied now.[1] The humanities, according to the authors, are “being attacked unfairly” and, in fact, are “living through a revival.”

Although written in committee prose, the pamphlet is worthy...