Dennis Sewell

Words to the Wise

The Kingdom of Speech

By Tom Wolfe

Jonathan Cape 185pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

A decade ago Tom Wolfe delivered the Jefferson Lecture to the National Endowment for the Humanities. His talk was called ‘The Human Beast’ and much of it consisted of an assertion that around 11,000 years ago speech took over from evolution the job of shaping the human future. It was the faculty of speech, Wolfe argued, that brought forth religion, farming and everything else that constitutes human exceptionalism and gives our species dominion over nature. For all really important human activities, verily in the beginning was the word.

Subscribe to read the full article

University of Chicago Press

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Costume of the life force? Words fail.' Germaine Greer on an ode to the condom ,
    • It's Write on Kew for the next four days. There are free copies of Literary Review about; why not dip your toe into the magazine?,
    • Which sci-fi author time-travelled to ancient Rome and lived a parallel life a persecuted Christian named Thomas? ,
    • You can pick up free copies of Literary Review at Write On Kew, which begins tomorrow. Fill your boots (with magazines).,
    • Michael Burleigh reads a survey of the rise of Asia ,
    • The Book of Kells, the Codex Amiatinus and the Carmina Burana: manuscript celebrities ,
    • 'Her bias is firmly towards all that is subterranean, hidden, buried, cavernous': Gillian Tindall explores Crossrail ,