Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language through a system of physically inscribed, mechanically transferred, or digitally represented symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with the debatable exception of computer languages); they are means of rendering a language into a form that can be reconstructed by other humans separated by time and/or space. While not all languages use a writing system, those with systems of inscriptions can complement and extend capacities of spoken language by enabling the creation of durable forms of speech that can be transmitted across space (e.g., correspondence) and stored over time (e.g., libraries or other public records). It has also been observed that the activity of writing itself can have knowledge-transforming effects, since it allows humans to externalize their thinking in forms that are easier to reflect on, elaborate, reconsider, and revise. Writing relies on many of the same semantic structures as the speech it represents, such as lexicon and syntax, with the added dependency of a system of symbols to represent that language's phonology and morphology. The result of the activity of writing is called a text, and the interpreter or activator of this text is called a reader.
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 to be 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. Amateur historians, including H.G. Wells, had speculated since the early 20th century on the likely correspondence between the emergence of systems of writing and the development of city-states into empires. As Charles Bazerman explains, the "marking of signs on stones, clay, paper, and now digital memories—each more portable and rapidly traveling than the previous—provided means for increasingly coordinated and extended action as well as memory across larger groups of people over time and space." 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. Further innovations included more uniform, predictable, and widely dispersed legal systems, distribution and discussion of accessible versions of sacred texts, and the origins of modern practices of scientific inquiry and knowledge-consolidation, all largely reliant on portable and easily reproducible forms of inscribed language.
Individual, as opposed to collective, 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, maintaining kinship and other social networks, negotiating household matters with providers of goods and services and with local and regional governing bodies, and lifewriting (e.g., a diary or journal).
The nearly global spread of digital communication systems such as e-mail and social media has made writing an increasingly important feature of daily life, where these systems mix with older technologies like paper, pencils, whiteboards, printers, and copiers. Substantial amounts of everyday writing characterize most workplaces in developed countries. In many occupations (e.g., law, accounting, software-design, human-resources, etc.) written documentation is not only the main deliverable but also the mode of work itself. Even in occupations not typically associated with writing, routine workflows (maintaining records, reporting incidents, record-keeping, inventory-tracking, documenting sales, accounting for time, fielding inquiries from clients, etc.) have most employees writing at least some of the time. (Full article...)
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. (Full article...)