English Literature Personal Statement

Comprehending the beauty and terror of the human experience is a product of my exposure to literature. Literature has given me the power to scrutinise ideologies and social structures, and the power to discover language as an evocative form of communication.

For instance, I initially found Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice" a compelling presentation of a man brought to vengeance and bloodlust by a society defiled by religious intolerance. However, after being introduced to the treatment and literary portrayal of Jews in Elizabethan England by a BBC4 podcast on the play, I was horrified by its potential perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes and intolerance as a 21st Century reader. In light of this, I perceived Portia's antagonistic prejudice as a contradiction of Shakespeare's proto-feminism. This led me to an appreciation of how texts are moulded, and retrospectively, may be viewed as corrupted, by the cultural environments of their writers. The interpretation of texts is thus something I learned to regard as an evolving discipline.

When studying Thomas Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt", I was fascinated by the poet's imitation of the Italian sonnet developed by writers like Petrarca; I found the presentation of unrequited love by Petrarca in "Sonnet CIII" as a force of compulsive infatuation deeply replicated by Wyatt. Intrigued by the influence of Italian poets on the work of English writers, I conducted an individual research project into the development of the Shakespearean sonnet. I was fascinated by Shakespeare's subversion of the traditions of Petrarchan love sonnets; his opposition towards conceit to idolise lovers in "Sonnet 130", as well as his potential exploration of sexuality outside of a heteronormative frame in "Sonnet 108", was refreshing and inventive. As someone with Italian heritage, discovering the literary impact of Italian writers on British writers was both surprising and enlightening. The project led me to an appreciation of literature as a dynamic art form which can conform to or subvert conventional ideas and moral traditions.

My fascination with subversive literature was deepened by watching a BBC Documentary on the Romantic period; I was engrossed by William Blake's revolutionary anger, provoking me to read "Songs of Innocence and Experience". I found his presentation of the enslavement of the human soul by exploitative institutions deeply unsettling, where I began to consider the extent to which I was truly free as a member of civilised society. I further identified the opposition between institutions and human liberty in Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". I thought Atwood's illustration of Offred's defiance through her narrative voice was mesmerising, especially intrigued by the autonomy and retaliation Offred's mind had in contrast to her bodily oppression. As a result, I disagree with critics such as Sandra Tomc who viewed Offred as a purely passive figure, one who ran the risk of perpetuating "traditional femininity".

Outside of literature, I have explored storytelling in other forms; in writing a blog post about the presentation of relationships in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash", I grew to appreciate the differing methods directors and writers utilise to convey meaning in their work. This motivated me to partake in an online screenwriting course with the University of East Anglia, where I was able to practically comprehend the challenges of both visual and literary storytelling. In addition, I volunteer at a British Red Cross Charity shop, where assisting customers of differing needs and backgrounds has greatly improved my communication skills. Taking part in a Space Design Competition and Imperial College and placing third with my group has further given me confidence in articulating complex ideas to others.

Literature is living, breathing, and continually evolving. The study of literature will continue to shatter and challenge the ways in which I perceive the human condition.

Year applied: 
2019
Subject: 
English

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