English Literature Personal Statement

  English Literature Personal Statement

The appeal of literature for me lies primarily in the thrill of ambiguity.  Studying complex texts during my A-level course has shown me how subtly and inventively authors can use language, narrative method, voice and syntactical form to convey meaning and respond imaginatively to the world they live in.  I was fascinated by the way George Eliot’s treatment of Dorothea in Middlemarch seems to lose its irony after a few chapters, and puzzled as to her intentions. At the same time the intimate scenes between Lydgate and Rosamond were electrifying in their force of revelation about the workings of character and the effects of social expectation.

In Dubliners style is the central issue in the ambiguity of vision in the stories, as Joyce chooses the voice of his characters to tell their story, never telling us what to think and leaving us to interpret as we can.  Can we sympathise with Mr Duffy in “A Painful Case”?  Will his style let us?  How do we judge Eveline, Little Chandler or Farrington?  Does Joyce’s choice of style and method preclude judgement altogether? These are the sorts of questions which attract me so strongly to the study of English.  There is always a disparity of some kind between what is written down and what the author’s meaning actually is.  I find it difficult to read anything nowadays without a pencil at hand to note ideas down in the margin, and a degree course in the subject offers the prospect of endless intellectual pleasure.

Literature without history is blind, and my History A-level course has been an excellent adjunct to my English studies, giving context to the works I have read and providing the perspective for understanding and judgement.  The “British Studies” module of my course gave me much useful information to help with the reading of Midddlemarch, and gave insight into the power of social change in a work like Tess of the D’Urbervilles (I am thinking of the meaning of Sandbourne, or of the scene at the railway station).

Theatre is important to me too and has been a long-term interest, connected with my enjoyment of literature.  Last year I directed a production of The Real Inspector Hound, which Tom Stoppard’s personal assistant, who saw the performance, described as one of the best she had ever seen.  Next year I shall be playing the role of Hector in The History Boys, another provocative work which raises the important question of what one should do with literature after “education” has finished.  I have also worked with younger pupils at school in the drama club, teaching them improvisation, helping with scripts and generally trying to persuade them of the liberating power of art.

In addition to my literary interests I lead a full school life.  I am a musician, playing double bass in two of the school’s orchestras, which last summer toured Paris and this year travelled to Birmingham for the Music for Youth Competition, wonderful experiences, offering the chance to meet many new people and experiment with my music.  My athletic ventures are very enjoyable; I entered my first competitive race as a triathlete last summer, coming in 663rd in the race.  Motivation and perseverance are my greatest virtues!  I am working for a D of E Gold Award, enjoying the challenge of the endurance elements and the opportunity to work in a team.  I work for the school’s Charity Committee, raising funds for various causes, and I am Head of House, with many responsibilities for sports teams and the management of extra-curricular events.

These experiences and positions of responsibility are, I believe, evidence of my maturity of purpose and my reliability.  I am very hard-working, dedicated to study and academically able.  Literature is my central interest in life because it offers imaginative responses to the central issues involved in being human, and is, as such, an endless source of speculation and debate.  My commitment to my chosen subject is total, and I hope you will consider my application.

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