I agree with Morgan, I actually really liked Tompkins article. I’d always thought of canonical texts as standing outside of literary fashions and criticism, but Tompkins really enlightened me to the fact that they have simply been able to adapt to every fashion that comes through.
While I was skeptical at first of those notion, Professor Seaman put in terms of The Wife of Bath, which made it much easier to believe. She said that while Alyson was once thought of as a buffoon, she is now an early type of feminist. While Taylor sees her as the complete opposite of a feminist, I think that if we view her by medieval standards, she shows an incredibly amount of forward thinking and the origin of what would one day become the feminist movement.
But back to Tompkins.
She used the examples of Hawthorne and Melville, both great authors by our standards, throughout her essay and managed to make her point well. However, one point that really drew ire with me was when she wrote “[critics] could not have possibly understood [Hawthorne] given the attitudes that must inform effusions such as these” (141). I feel like it’s a little arrogant to say that they did not understand it, as if our knowledge is completely superior. This is like doctors in the 18th century laughing at those in the medieval ages, only for them to be shown up a century later. In today’s time, knowledge is accumulating even faster, which could cause new critical theories to form at quicker paces than ever. It’s incredibly likely that in another century, people will look back on our critiques of The Scarlet Letter and will wonder at our conclusions.