Due to our in-depth class discussion on the canon—and amidst much hate and harsh feelings for these literary works of ‘higher importance’—I personally found Jane Tompkins’ essay to be rather enlightening on this subject, shedding light on the canon in a different way than I have previously experienced.
Tompkins uses her example of Hawthorne as an author to sort of represent the misinterpretations of his peers of his works—that is, to highlight the fact that while we may see genius in a contemporary work of literature, in fact for future generations what we found beneficial and ‘meta’ may not be what they will see as important, if they continue to see any relevance in the text at all. This idea was my favorite part of Tompkins’ essay because it at least allows that while some texts of the ‘overarching canon’ may have held a particular significance for the people of whose age it was written, this significance quite possibly has shifted due to our different cultural and time period lenses. Moreover, her use of Hawthorne as an example also shed light on the fact that texts like his and those found in the canon actually serve as the best examples of some crucial skills and techniques that we still consider crucial today, whether for literary criticism, theory, composure, etc. Overall, I found her essay to really make me consider the various works of the canon and question their significance for our literary world today—and actually dislike the canon itself a little less!