How, at the end of the 1980s, would we expect a great American university to celebrate the centenary of its founding? More specifically, how would we expect such a university to honor its humanities faculty in a celebration of this sort? Is it conceivable that the university would welcome, as one of several honored lecturers, the legal counsel for the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang, and listen to a philosophical defense of its murderous activities? Is it conceivable that it would invite, as the keynote speaker, a PLO apologist like Edward Said to lecture on the perfidy of the United States and Israel? Or that it would call upon a radical journalist like Christopher Hitchens to discuss American “propaganda” and the “terrorism” of the contras in Nicaragua? Is this what the study of the humanities has come to signify at Stanford?

As odd as it may seem, this is precisely how the humanities were represented when...

 
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