English Literature and Philosophy Personal Statement

As an English student I revel in the aesthetic beauty of literature while enjoying how the big ideas underpinning a work adds meaning. As a Philosophy student my inquisitive mind constantly pushes me to ask questions and engage in debate.

I attended a Philosophy and Religious Ethics Conference at the Bloomsbury Baptist Church. Here, a debate was held concerning morality and God. I relished taking part in the debate which further motivated my interest in studying philosophy.

At the conference I listened to an excellent lecture by Professor Keith Ward questioning ‘Is God Evil?’ It illuminated one of the aspects of philosophy that I love: philosophy challenges the most common assumptions and logically dismantle them.

Another problem that intrigues me and dismantles assumptions is Hempel’s paradox; the examination of inductive reasoning and the mutability of the argument from Hempel to Maher is something that I would like to explore further.

One of the philosophers I admire most is Simone de Beauvoir, I read about her Existential Feminist Ethics in Dialogue. What I found particularly fascinating is her idea of the ‘feminine’ as a passive and patriarchal myth. I have been aware of gender inequality as a long standing issue but it was reading Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman that originally inspired me to involve myself in feminism, leading me to co-found and chair The Feminist Society at my sixth form.

One of my proudest accomplishments with the society is my involvement with Plan UK, helping to invest in the education of girls.

Feminism has influenced my interest in Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist utopian writer. Herland depicts a society comprised only of women. Men intrude upon their society and quickly find that their assumptions of women are incorrect; this reminded me of Simone de Beauvoir’s idea of the ‘feminine’ as patriarchal myth.

Female writers have a unique voice that is hugely influential on style. For instance in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen portrays many witty, intelligent women who believe in marrying for love.

The fiction I enjoy reading raises as many questions as it answers. Great literature doesn’t just sound beautiful, it says something original and startles you into thinking. One poem that makes me feel this way is ‘The Wasteland’ by T.S. Eliot. The poem has to have one of the most stunning openings in poetic history with a unique take on spring that immediately engaged my imagination.

Another poem that leaves me in awe is Stevie Smith’s ‘Not Waving but Drowning’. Unlike the Wasteland, it is the ending of this comparatively short poem that amazes me. With a few words Smith is able to radically change the perspective of the poem. She turns the lens from a tragic pinpointed moment towards existence as a whole; giving ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ universal significance.

I am interested in debating global issues and politics and intend to continue this at university. I founded a debating society for lower school students, developing my ability to critically analyse arguments, and led a Geography Society, where we participated in Earth Day and corresponded with students from China.

My concern for social issues also led me to procure work experience at SPEAR, a homeless charity. This gave me an opportunity to think independently and be responsible.

Moreover my empathetic nature helped me when spending time with residents in SPEAR’s hostels. The work has inspired me towards charity work in my future and I would be looking for a chance to develop this at university, particularly due my interest in ethics and morality.

English and philosophy both allow me to explore possible answers to universal questions.

Through studying them together I can consider these questions in a logical, systematic way and debate with people who are interested in looking at philosophical issues through the lens of literature. English and Philosophy make me think, this is why I would like the opportunity to study joint honours.

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