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  1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Most Important writer for the English Language

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Lemex, Apr 25, 2015.

    Who do you think is the most important writer for the English language? Is it Homer, who inspired pretty much all of European culture? the anonymous poet who penned Beowulf? Chaucer who made English as respectable as French and Latin? Shakespeare in his prominent position in both quality and popularity, or Milton who wrote the finest English epic in history? Or was it someone else?

    What do you guys think?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    For novelists, Joyce, maybe? Just because of where he took fiction, from the excellent work in Dubliner's through works like Finnegan's Wake.

    Though Shakespeare is a good pick, if I'm not just considering novelists.
     
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  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Novelists are an interesting sub-section actually. You'll have there Daniel Defoe, and Jonathon Swift who wrote the first English novels. But then again, what about Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote? That's I think the first novel ever as we would understand the word 'novel'.
     
  4. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    This has the makings of a long thread. Shakespeare was probably the first literary 'rock star' but there have been so many exceptionally gifted writers that have contributed to Western culture. Oscar Wilde, for example.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Don Quixote doesn't count for English, though. What about Melville and Conrad?
     
  6. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know how I'd define 'important' here. Shakespeare's probably had more direct influence than any other because he's become so ingrained into the culture, but there were no doubt plenty of writers who influenced him in turn, so do they count as more important still?

    Or we could think about what writer has caused more people than any other to start reading, and in that case it's likely someone like JKR or whoever wrote the Ladybird Book Of Letters.

    I don't know what to think of Joyce. I actually thought Ulysses was brilliant, but Finnegan's Wake is blatantly a troll.

    Since the OP included Homer, I think he means most important to English literature/culture, rather than most important thing originally written in English.

    Unless I'm getting my ancient figures really mixed up.
     
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  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I meant writers important for the English language and culture over writers important who worked in English. If that makes sense.

    Melville certainly is an important English-writing writer - yeah. He has a lot of influence over here, in the UK too. Does Conrad over there in the US?
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think Conrad has a lot of influence in the U.S. We read him in high school, certainly, and I continued reading him afterward. His influence shows up in pop culture as well, such as the films Apocalypse Now, Alien, and Aliens.
     
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  9. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I know I'll probably be cutting corners by saying this but the question itself is almost impossible.

    Every writer (or at least the majority of us who write and read) kinda owes everything to those who came before.

    James Joyce, Shakespeare, Homer, Joseph Conrad etc

    Their influences are in literary fiction, genre fiction, comics, movies, tv shows and just everywhere. All writers owe those names and many more a great deal of respect, and attempting to pick who had the most influence out of them all is ......well my mind is kinda blanking XD

    Hard question
     
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  10. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to say words to that effect but didn't want to dismiss the premise out of hand. It is of course, entirely subjective.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you probably have to start with Shakespeare. Reading his plays and seeing so many familiar phrases and words that originated with him makes me think that he invented half the English language. There are many other important writers, of course, but I don't think you can make a convincing case that any of them beat Shakespeare for importance and influence.
     
  12. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    I vote Shakespeare if influence is regarded as important, his writing inspires reading and writing. all young kids relate to Romeo and Juliet, then the concept that he made up words inspires us to use our language regardless of level of education. you could say we can blame him for the text speak used with mobile phones.
    as for English been taught to 1.5 billion people thank the internet and Hollywood.
     
  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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  14. Ankoku Teion
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    Ankoku Teion Active Member

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    Shakespeare and terry pratchett
     
  15. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    Shakespeare.

    Too many ingrained phrases in English now.

    How many people know the opening to Hamlet's soliloquy and yet can't complete it nor know what it's about. But I'd guess that 80% of the English speaking world have heard the words 'to be or not to be' at some point.

    I also think, in the timeline of modern English (say, from Chaucer to now) only he, and perhaps Dickens, have been able to satisfy a wide range of audience with a substantial amount of work. The 'plebians' could enjoy the ribaldry in a Shakespeare play as much as a Lord would appreciate the poetry (;) Lemex). Adults appreciate Dicken's drama, as much as children love his stories. Joyce (ironically, for an Irishman buried in Switzerland) performed an original and laudable autopsy on the English language and beyond, but only in a few novels. And the legacy of Wake is really only found in "Professor" Stanley Unwin.:bigtongue:

    Shakespeare is like the Beatles. Joyce is like Frank Zappa.

    Dan Brown is Rick Astley.o_O
     
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  16. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    or
    Dan Brown is justin bieber
     
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  17. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    That was the first thought that came into my mind. But I didn't know if it was harsher on Dan or Justin. :)
     
  18. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Tolkien. He didn't just create an imaginary world, he created a mythology for England.
     
  19. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I can't answer this, I don't think I'm well read enough to have valid opinion. But I know a man who might. Good ol Bill Bryson, he wrote a book called Mother Tongue; it's believed to be mostly accurate and from memory he ranks Chaucer right up there as being the most influential.
     
  20. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Modern day, I would say Hemingway due to his portrayal of concise prose being better than flourishing prose (but only when done right).
     
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  21. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Wow! 15 posts in for Dickens to be mentioned and 20 for Hemingway. Those two, plus Shakespeare, would be my choices.
     
  22. Belle Marion
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    Belle Marion New Member

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    No women I see. Or people of color. How sad. The answer to this question is a room full of old white guys. But perhaps accurate. Would it be too American to say Thomas Jefferson should be added to the list? Fredrick Douglas? Jane Austen (Because she helped birth the "female novel" though I can't really stand her work) Of course a shout out to Shakespeare. Emily Dickinson?
     
  23. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For me, it has to be Shakespeare. It's not even close. What he has done for English-language literature (and literature in general) is matched by few. The volume of work and his influence on culture are what really make him stand out.

    OK, I'll stop now; this post is making me sound like Harold Bloom.
     
  24. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    I'm not sure what's 'sad' about it. The OP asks about the most important writer writing in English. Sheer numbers would suggest a white man. Choosing a woman or 'person of color' might be a legitimate choice, but not doing so is hardly sad.

    I'll go with Shakespeare too, with a nod towards Hemingway.
     
  25. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I've always gone with those who changed the face of writing and literature. While Austin might be a good candidate, she's hardly the first woman to write.

    Sappho is one of the first known if not the first woman of literature.

    Phillis Wheatley (African-American woman) precedes Douglas.

    I like to go with those that changed the nature of writing.
     
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