January 21, 2022

A writer, or a writer, is, originally, a person who is skilled in the art of writing or who makes it his profession (master writers). Subsequently, the term designated the author of literary works, also designated by the expression "man of letters" or "woman of letters". This meaning has become main nowadays. In the rest of this article, the word "writer" is used to designate any person who practices this profession, regardless of gender.

The writer in the story

Early writers, descendants of scribes

Etymologically, the escrivein who appears in the 12th century is the direct descendant of the scribe. It is the same with its function, which consists in writing down or recopying what others want to transmit. At the beginning of the 13th century, Rutebeuf also defines him as a "scribe of his own production", and in the second part of the 13th century, the writer is also understood as one who composes books.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, writers against authors

In the 17th century, people qualified as “authors” were no longer considered the original producers of writings, but more people exercising moral authority and sources of knowledge that must be respected. At the same time, works are developed whose qualities considered important are “beautiful spirit” and aesthetic qualities. The editors of these works can then hardly be qualified as authors, and gradually, they are designated by the word "writer". The contemporary social status of writer, more commonly referred to as men of letters, emerges [not clear] in the 18th century with the influence of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, "at a time when the prestige of the individual who exposes his subjectivity and who puts his intellectual and writing skills at the service of public opinion". At that time, the desire of authors to live from their work, faced with the new technical challenges of publishing, highlighted the originality and ownership of the work of the mind. The autograph manuscript becomes proof of such activity, and therefore of the corresponding rights. Writers are beginning to reflect on the notion of their life's work, and to be archivists of themselves, through the conservation of their manuscripts. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a precursor of this movement, and Goethe, then Borges, among others, were concerned about what was the corpus of their work. This corpus can also be established by someone other than the writer, after his death, for example; Edmond Malone, for Shakespeare, was the first to want to relate the life of a writer in correspondence with his work. As a corollary, the notion of “copyright” also appeared in the 18th century, first in the field of music, in particular with the case of Handel who claimed remuneration for public performances of his work The Messiah. The concept then extends to other areas of artistic creation, including literature. Samuel Johnson, in 1755, was indignant in his Letter to Chesterfield that he had received practically no compensation for his Dictionary. In France, Beaumarchais founded the first society of authors in 1777.

In the 19th century, the coronation of writers

If the 18th century saw the advent of a body of citizens recognized for their status as writers, their consecration took place according to Paul Bénichou after the Revolution, in the 19th century which saw the writer "forced to invest the places formerly reserved to ecclesiastics and thus to assume a moral authority", with in particular the "Romantics who update the notion of the sacred henceforth lived in its relationship with writing". According to Isabelle Diu and Élisabeth Parinet, the number of authors in France increased by around 3,000 at the end of the 10th century.

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