5 Literary Innovators

Name: William Shakespeare

Nationality: English

Born: 1564

Died: 1616

Perhaps the most widely known and read writer in the English language, Shakespeare’s writings not only shaped immeasurable numbers of literary works, but language itself. Charles Dickens, Herman Melville and Thomas Hardy are just a few writers influenced by the playwright’s mastery of language and deep exploration of characters. Before Shakespeare penned Romeo And Juliet, romance was never used in the plot tragedies, thereby creating the romantic tragedy genre. The Bard was also one of the first writers to directly link character with plot, with character-driven pieces such as Hamlet and King Lear exploring characters’ inner turmoil on an unprecedented scale.


Name: Emily Dickinson

Nationality: American

Born: 1830

Died: 1886

An innovator of her own bold personal style, Emily Dickinson became known for the unconventional techniques used in her poetry, which separated her from all other poets of her age. Her work features unusual punctuation and capitalisation, as well as short lines and unique line breaks, and because of the wide variety of themes it’s difficult to fit her work into any one genre. Dickinson’s originality and disregard for the strict form of poetry paved the way for a host of female writers and she is now regarded as the forerunner of modern poetry.


Name: Daniel Defoe

Nationality: English

Born: 1659

Died: 1731

Author of castaway novel Robinson Crusoe, Defoe is regarded as the father of realistic fiction, credited with bringing the novel to popularity in Britain. Before his story of a common man’s fight through adversity, most tales dealt with mythical or biblical figures. The massive success that followed the printing of his novel ushered in a new age of writing, one that took a straightforward, everyday approach, as opposed to the overly flowery, ornate style of old.


Name: James Joyce

Nationality: Irish

Born: 1882

Died: 1941

Hailed as one of the finest works of fiction ever written, James Joyce’s Ulysses has been used to sum up the entire modernist movement of writing. 18 chapters long, the book parodies Homer’s Odyssey with multiple literary styles throughout. Complex and explicit, Joyce’s works are not easy reads but his ground-breaking stream-of-consciousness style has influenced more writers than any other in the 20th century, from Salman Rushdie to Samuel Beckett. Joyce is often credited with revolutionising 20th-century fiction as a whole, creating a divide between literary ‘art’ and popular fiction.


Name: Agatha Christie

Nationality: English

Born: 1890

Died: 1976

Known as the ‘queen of crime’, Agatha Christie is the best-selling female author of all time and penned the best-selling mystery ever, And Then There Were None. Christie’s works are known for their twist endings, as well as her masterful use of suspense, plot and character, which all impacted the crime genre significantly. Credited with creating the modern murder mystery, her influence over the genre can be seen though novels, television, film and mass media to this day.

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