English Literature Personal Statement
Whilst there is depth enough in examining the aesthetic beauty of well constructed prose for it to warrant study in itself, it is not primarily for this reason that I wish to read English literature. To be 'a fly on the wall in a far wider array of times and places', as A. C. Grayling puts it, 'is the gift that comes from thoughtful reading of even the most averagely good novels.' An integral part therefore of a novel's value to us is, in my opinion, its ability to transport us to a time or situation alien to our own. In this way our knowledge and potential to learn can be immeasurably expanded by the possibility of vicarious experience. Be it through the satire of Chaucer, the emotional articulacy of Shakespeare or the bleak frankness of Orwell, good literature can, and should, enlighten us to some degree about life, furthering our understanding of our fellow human beings.
Shakespeare and Chaucer are, among others, writers I have had the good fortune to study at A-level. Through the plays 'Hamlet' and 'Antony and Cleopatra' and the Tales of the Franklin and Merchant, tragedy and the ideal of courtly romance, are key themes I have explored. I have, however, delighted in alternative interpretations, particularly of the Canterbury tales, making me especially excited about studying the critical theory component of an English degree. I am aware that the restrictions of the A-level syllabus have perhaps resulted in a narrow, monocultural examination of rich texts and I thus relish the chance that university will bring to broaden my literary horizons.
My complementary 'A' levels, History and Philosophy, highlight further the ubiquity of literature, penetrating almost every other field of study. Just as the plays of Arthur Miller can further our understanding of America's post war 'Red Scare,' so can Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment lead us to question the moral values of utilitarianism and our innermost conception of our own identity. Indeed the expression of philosophical concepts within English literature is a topic I would love to explore further at some point during my university study.
I have welcomed the opportunity of sharing this enthusiasm with others during the final year in Sixth Form by helping struggling 12 and 13 year olds at a local comprehensive improve their reading skills. The experience has been particularly rewarding for me, and evocative of my own battle with dyslexia as a younger child. Outside of academia, I enjoy sports, having represented my College 1st XV Rugby team and Hockey 2nd XI. In further pursuit of self-development, I recently undertook a month long 'World Challenge' expedition to Outer Mongolia. The trip, which involved renovating classrooms of a remote primary school, gave me an insight into foreign culture as well as a fresh appreciation of beauty in the natural world. In an effort to complete the 'campfire scene,' I managed to take my acoustic guitar and accompany our singing; I continue to enjoy composing my own songs, inspired by the poetic lyrics of artists such as Bob Dylan.
I feel it is important to emphasise then that my interest in literature is not exclusively limited to its role in providing a window into the unfamiliar. Indeed the intrinsic value and resonating power to convey emotion which lies with 'the best words in their best order' is a fascinating and life-enriching topic of study in its own right. As Aldous Huxley's wonderful, autodidactic savage realises in A Brave New World, the limits of ones language truly are the limits of ones world. In the light of this, I happily anticipate spending the next few years of my life immersed in as many aspects of literature as possible, and subsequently, furthering the expansion my own 'world' through interaction with similarly passionate and like-minded people.
This personal statement was written by Simon for application in 2008.
This Personal Statement helped secure me offers from York, Exeter, Nottingham and Leeds as well as an interview at St. Peter's Oxford. I hope that it can be of use to somebody...