Canon of Sentiment or Significance?

The Hobbit is a hard work to place in either the canon of sentiment or the canon of significance. As an academic myself, I can see the place it has in the canon of significance, but as a reader and fondly remembering childhood books, I can see its obvious place in the canon of sentiment.

Firstly, a definition of each canon is required, in order to firmly place The Hobbit within one canon or the other. The "academic canon of significance exists to justify, document, chronicle, or explain, [whereas] the canon of sentiment exists to preserve - to preserve the childhood of those adults who create that canon and to preserve the affection those adults feel for the books within it" (Stevenson, 113). For The Hobbit in particular "its popular significance overshadows its academic impact" (Stevenson, 113), especially since the Peter Jackson movies have been released. Although The Hobbit has never been forgotten, or started to slide from the collective literary consciousness, it experienced a huge resurgence in popularity since 2001 when the first Lord of the Rings movie was released. This sparked a rush for not only the Lord of the Rings books, but also Tolkien's other works. The immense popularity of The Hobbit in particular has been supplemented by the movie trilogy being released since 2012. And since "popular judgements of sentimental regard, not academic lists of significance, create and control the canon of children's literature" (Stevenson, 113) it seems that The Hobbit should be firmly entrenched in the canon of sentiment.

However, it has been of academic importance too. Stevenson states that "scholars are likelier to discuss books about which they have something to say," (113), and there were plenty of aspects of Tolkien's works to discuss prior to the movie releases and the immediate resurgence in general popularity. The Hobbit, along with Tolkien's other works, have been dissected many times by various scholars and academics since their publications (drawn out from 1937-1977), particularly in light of Tolkien's own academic and philological prowess. In part Tolkien's career, and recognition within the academic community have guaranteed that his works would have received at least a perfunctory glance by leading academics, but the depth and structure of his novels have spoken for themselves and assured their inclusion within the canon of significance. This is not in the least influenced by Tolkien's superior world-building skills and his creation of arguably one of the greatest modern high fantasy series'.

The Hobbit belongs in both the canon of significance and the canon of sentiment. Although it is of value to scholars and academics, it is becoming more important to the canon of sentiment, particularly after the renewal of its popularity through the movie versions. Stevenson states that "even if we never read it [The Hobbit] as children, we knew it belonged to us, and that it was a beloved classic ... and [we] had perhaps coexisted with a copy that we simply had refused to open" (116). This firmly signifies The Hobbit as it was a major part of my childhood, my father's childhood, and possibly my grandmother or grandfather's youth or young adulthood. This book is also the work of an academic, and is full of esoteric and philological references, with a structure and themes that can also occupy other academics. The Hobbit belongs in the canon of significance, and the canon of sentiment.

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