actually no-one I know
Yes and no, yes and no. Stevestumble down there gets it right, but there's really more to be said here.
The first thing that needs to be established is that either you love literature, or you don't. It's very simple, really: there are more people who enjoy reading than you think. Someone is buying all those Left Behind books and fantasy novels and, God help us all, Starcraft novelizations. Those, however, are to literature as pornography is to an intimate relationship: a bland and wholly disgusting for-profit mockery of the real thing.
If you do love literature, you will laugh at that line about handwaving and verbiage, or possibly get angry, but you'll struggle to find any sort of rational counterargument. This is because love isn't rational. You can come up with any number of reasons for why literature is so tremendously important -- the rapturous beauty of a well-crafted sentence, the psychologial insights, the philosophical speculation, the historical importance -- but the actual emotion is not conveyable in any way. You'll be dumbfounded that you even have to argue the point, that it isn't utterly obvious to everyone in the world that literature is so important and so amazing. The argument was pointless in the first place, of course: you might as well try to cure someone of PTSD-induced agoraphobia by explaining that it isn't logical, and therefore they should stop it right now and go play outside.
Now, there are good points to be made about the academic world and its insularity, although I'm pretty sure others have done so more thoughtfully and interestingly than whoever this person is. But I firmly believe that anyone who dismisses textual analysis as one of the most valuable ways of looking at the world -- and the credit for applying that sort of analysis to things other than literature goes largely to them highfalutin', fruity, never-done-a-honest-day's-work French structuralists -- is tragically impoverished in mind and spirit, and will never even know it.