On the evening of Friday, January 27, Irving Howe—Distinguished Professor of English at the City University of New York—was the principal speaker at a symposium on the theme of “Excellence: Theory and Practice in the Humanities.” The sponsor of this noteworthy event was the New York Council for the Humanities, and its setting was the New York Public Library. As befits an occasion so replete with the trappings of what Professor Howe himself described as “established power,” his pronouncements on the present condition of American cultural life were promptly reported in the press. Two days after his speech at the library, The New York Times published an account of the symposium under a four-column headline which read: “Some Intellectuals See Conservatism as a Dark Cloud.”

According to this account, which was written by Walter Goodman,...


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