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Introduction

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Writing is a medium of human communication that represents language with signs and symbols. For languages that utilize a writing system, inscriptions can complement spoken language by creating a durable version of speech that can be stored for future reference or transmitted across distance. Writing, in other words, is not a language, but a tool used to make languages readable. Within a language system, writing relies on many of the same structures as speech, such as vocabulary, grammar, and semantics, with the added dependency of a system of signs or symbols. The result of the activity of writing is called a text, and the interpreter or activator of this text is called a reader.

H.G. Wells argued that writing has the ability to "put agreements, laws, commandments on record. It made the growth of states larger than the old city states possible. It made a continuous historical consciousness possible. The command of the priest or king and his seal could go far beyond his sight and voice and could survive his death". As human societies emerged, collective motivations for the development of writing were driven by pragmatic exigencies like keeping history, maintaining culture, codifying knowledge through curricula and lists of texts deemed to contain foundational knowledge (e.g., The Canon of Medicine) or artistically exceptional (e.g., a literary canon), organizing and governing societies through the formation of legal systems, census records, contracts, deeds of ownership, taxation, trade agreements, treaties, and so on. For example, around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in Mesopotamia outgrew human memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica, on the other hand, writing may have evolved through calendric and political necessities for recording historical and environmental events.

Individual motivations for writing include improvised additional capacity for the limitations of human memory (e.g., to-do lists, recipes, reminders, logbooks, maps, the proper sequence for a complicated task or important ritual), dissemination of ideas (as in an essay, monograph, broadside, petition, or manifesto), imaginative narratives and other forms of storytelling, personal or business correspondence, and lifewriting (e.g., a diary or journal). Read more...

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Modernist poetry is a mode of writing that is characterized by two main features. The first is technical innovation in the writing through the extensive use of free verse. The second is a move away from the Romantic idea of an unproblematic poetic 'self' directly addressing an equally unproblematic ideal reader or audience.

Modernist poetry in English is generally considered to have emerged in the early years of the 20th century with the appearance of the Imagist poets. In common with many other modernists, these poets were writing in reaction to what they saw as the excesses of Victorian poetry, with its emphasis on traditional formalism and overly flowery poetic diction. In many respects, their criticism of contemporary poetry echoes what William Wordsworth wrote in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads to instigate the Romantic movement in British poetry over a century earlier.

In general, the modernists saw themselves as looking back to the best practices of poets in earlier periods and other cultures. Their models included ancient Greek literature, Chinese and Japanese poetry, the troubadours, Dante and the medieval Italian philosophical poets (such as Guido Cavalcanti), and the English Metaphysical poets.

Much of the early poetry produced by these writers took the form of short, compact lyrics. However, as modernist poetry in English developed, longer poems came to the fore. These long poems represent the main contribution of the modernist movement to the 20th century English poetic canon.


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Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. The Bible was hand written in Belgium, by Gerard Brils, for reading aloud in a monastery.

Selected biography

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W. Andrew Robinson (born 1957) is a British author[1][2] and former newspaper editor.[3]

Andrew Robinson was educated at the Dragon School, Eton College where he was a King's Scholar, University College, Oxford where he read Chemistry and finally the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He is the son of Neville Robinson, an Oxford physicist. He is based in London and is currently a full-time writer.

Robinson has written several books about the history of writing, including:

  • The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs and Pictograms. Thames and Hudson (2000). ISBN 0-500-28156-4.[4]
  • Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Great Undeciphered Scripts. McGraw-Hill (2002). ISBN 0-07-135743-2.[5][6]
  • Writing and Script. Oxford University Press (2009). ISBN 9780199567782.[3][7][8]


Did you know...

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...that screenwriter Richard Baer's writing credits for television included twenty-three episodes of Bewitched and five episodes of The Munsters?
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WritingCalligraphyPenmanshipWriting implementsInksAlphabetic writing systemsAbjadAbugidaKanjiLogographic writing systemsWriting systemsCyrillic alphabetsHellenic scriptsScript typefaces

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