English Literature Personal Statement
When I saw Gatz, John Collin's eight hour interpretation of The Great Gatsby, I noticed that Fitzgerald changes the colour of Daisy's hair every time he describes it. It is "like a dash of blue paint", "yellowy" like her daughters and then "dark, shining". Perhaps Fitzgerald believed that Daisy, a character so transient that her love fluctuates from one man to another within a page, was too contradictory, too whimsical to retain a fixed appearance. For Gatsby she is a dream, an ideal guaranteed to disappoint and as our view of her changes so does her hair. It is small details, a single word that changes the meaning of a passage, which make me love English Literature. In An Irish Airman Foresees His Death Yeats writes "I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above" and then later "a lonely impulse of delight drove to this tumult in the clouds". The pilot, who had been looking up at the clouds that are "above" him, is suddenly "in" them and we get a powerful sense of his ascent with only the use of two prepositions.
Podcasts of lectures given by Helen Vendler on poems such as Sailing to Byzantium and Among School Children inspired my interest in Yeats but the Romanticism that was so influential in his earlier work also fascinates me. In She Walks in Beauty Byron describes the light that "one ray the less" would have destroyed the grace that effuses both the trees and the face in his poem. I love the idea that the woman is made beautiful by light - that nature has the power to "mellow" a face or "solemnise" the mind as Shelley writes in Frankenstein. I also became interested in the lives of the Romantics after watching the plays Bloody Poetry, Mary Shelley and the film Bright Star.
It was through Bright Star that I discovered my favourite poem Ode To A Nightingale - the sense of "drowsy numbness" allows us "to dissolve", like the narrator, and travel "through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways" until we are "upon the midnight" with the nightingale. The same sense of "dreamy divagation" is present in The Moose by Elizabeth Bishop and in both cases after being lulled by the gentle progression of the poem we are quickly awakened: Bishop "stops with a jolt" and Keats asks "do I wake or sleep?" I am looking forward to comparing literature in this way on a university course.
Attending my school's feminist society has inspired me to question portrayals of women in literature. King Lear blames his wife for the wickedness of his daughters, Austen's Lizzy flaunts convention so successfully that she attracts a millionaire and marries him, Bella is referred to as "the lovely woman" throughout Our Mutual Friend and Sonya is dismissed as a "sterile flower" when Nikolai abandons her in War and Peace. I am currently reading Middlemarch, which with Eliot's realistic heroines and flawed male characters, seems indicative of a radical change in the way in which women were being viewed both in literature and outside of it.
I have been strengthening my analytical skills with the creation of a blog in which I review the books I have recently read, such as Catch 22, A Picture of Dorian Grey and The View from Castle Rock. This was especially beneficial when participating in an exhibition at the British Museum. I was part of a project in which we were asked to respond, through descriptions and sketches, to the construction of a new North West wing of the gallery. I am interested in combining English and Art further and so would like to spend a year doing an art foundation before returning to academic study. Volunteering in the SEN department of my school has also had a profound effect on the way I view English Literature; many of the teenagers I work with find reading challenging and often struggle to express their opinions. By reading and discussing novels with them I realize that I am only just beginning to appreciate English Literature and am excited about expanding my knowledge on a university course.
Let me know your thoughts guys!! :)