I found this article had a lot in it that went back to my previous post on what defines literature, but also did a good job preparing a theoretical foundation for reading Tompkins article. What defines an author? at what point does something shift from being a great work of literature to a canonical classic? This point seems to be compounded when we consider the ‘American’ body of literature, where not only the idea of the ‘author’ is in question but what ‘American’ actually implies? I liked the specific example used of Christopher Columbus’ extensive journals of his voyage. I had never read any of, or even heard that, he kept journals, which moderately surprised me in light of his glorified position in American History. Other journals have evolved into classics that I am familiar with, from the comparatively dry Darwin’s Voyage of the M.S. Beatle, to Plath’s Unabridged Journals and the well known Diary of Anne Frank. How could a journal covering the pivotal journey of discovering the ‘new world’ not make it into America’s classical canon, while ‘Diary of Anne Frank,’ an inherently European work, is literally a classroom staple? I think the answer lies in two things: the intention of the author, and the modern socio-political relevance of what is being recorded. I’m surmising that Columbus’ journals are probably more like logs, with lots of allusions to inventory, navigation and weather, which, though expressly important at the moment the Mayflower sailed, no longer has relevance in modern society. Compare that to the journal of a young girl who is a victim of increasingly hateful and escalating prejudice. There is something human in this narrative that can be applied universally, not just in express instances of prejudice but also as psychologically insightful into the human condition of being oppressed. This sheds revealing light on one of the tenements central to the founding of The United States: the concept of religious choice and freedom from oppression. Might this not say more about what it is to be ‘American’ than the chronicles of the voyage actually discovering America? And secondly, I mentioned authorial intent, which is sure to arise in conversation this upcoming week. Certainly, while Ann Frank may not have been writing with the intent of publication, she was voicing a perspective that fervently needed to be expressed and heard. While Columbus’ voyage, though at its end unique and historical, had no urgency in its message, and no design to convey any message.