English Literature Personal Statement

I realised that I wanted to study English Literature upon reading Nabokov's Lolita. His fiendishly clever, mendacious prose made me appreciate how powerful and destructive literature can be. I find the written word, as well as being emotionally evocative, to be a dynamic discipline and I believe that the analytical nature of an English Literature degree will provide me with a deeply gratifying intellectual challenge.

Discerning an author's intent through examination of narrative style interests me because I believe a story can only exist through the intermediary of the narrator. Unreliable narration is an intriguing device as it forces the reader to exercise their powers of critical thinking. Nabokov's Pale Fire was the first novel that forced me to consider this narrative element. It challenged my moral centre and illuminated the gap between appearance and reality. A narrator need not do this with malicious intent; contrast Chaucer's unreliable narration of his Canterbury Tales with the knowing, manipulative way Alex speaks through A Clockwork Orange. An author's ability to immerse a reader in a character's mentality is the reason that I find English Literature such a scintillating topic of study.

My love of dystopian fiction has been formative in the way that I examine literature. In discourse about the future, people often have in mind Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World. Post-World War II,
Orwell's bleak vision of a world controlled by a seemingly omnipotent government seemed inexorable. Now, in an age where instant gratification is demanded through the medium of technology, Huxley's soma-saturated society feels plausible. The two novels do, however, share common territory; along with Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, they imagine a suppression of literary texts through censorship. As a potential student of English Literature, I find that to be particularly frightening and fascinating, more so than the panoptic One State of Zamyatin's We. Irrespective of the ideological differences of dystopian authors, the genre represents everything that I value about Literature; it challenges complacency through criticism of existing power structures and I hope to develop my understanding of Literature as a didactic tool further at university.

During my Theatre Studies A Level and in my capacity as School Drama Prefect, I have performed and analysed a number of texts. I recently played the role of Gertrude in a production of Hamlet set in London's criminal underworld and I found that modernising Shakespeare allowed the text to speak to the audience in a compelling and poignant manner. I have experienced this creative process working with the National Youth Theatre on a Shakespearean Acting Masterclass and directing my sixth form musical. It has aided my understanding of dramatic texts and made me value the visceral potency of the written word.

Studying Religious Studies has allowed me to explore the ethical and religious context of numerous works; The Brothers Karamazov would not have held nearly as much meaning to me had I not studied Kantian ethics.My reading of Paradise Lost was also aided by my study of philosophical evil; whilst Milton maintains that Satan is the embodiment of evil, his devil possesses a defiant beauty and a tragic sense of loss, which is not often explored in Judaeo-Christian literature. Religious Studies has enabled me to view literature from secular and religious perspectives and to explore their ethical dilemmas. This has been furthered by my involvement in the school Debating society, where I have had the opportunity to debate contemporary moral issues in a public setting.

I am wholly committed to studying English Literature and working towards a high level of academic attainment. Literature underpins the vast human history of living through language and I envision my future career lying in this field. I hope to develop my understanding of the subject through continued study of it at university.

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I realised that I wanted to study English Literature upon reading
Nabokov's Lolita. His fiendishly clever, mendacious prose made me
appreciate how powerful and destructive literature can be...

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