English Literature Personal Statement

Almost everything I have ever learned seems to have come from reading books. Home-schooled until the age of 12, my idea of learning anything was simply find a book on the subject and then vanish for the next six months. As the years went by, I also realised that I wanted to write books as well as read them. I wrote my first novel when I was 16, but I know that if I am ever to create great literature, I must first learn to fully appreciate it.

My creative writing, in both poetry and prose, often comes from my reading. My first poems were highly self-centred and melancholy. However, I now write in a more restrained, emotionally detached style perhaps influenced by Frost or Larkin, while retaining a sense of humour, courtesy of John Donne.

At A level, I study English Literature & Language, Drama, History, and Law. I chose the Combined course instead of simply Literature, because the course contained all the literary elements I enjoyed, but also stimulated my interest in language. Studying The Color Purple and The Scarlet Letter at the same time as reading The Clockwork Orange showed me a variety of different narrative styles. I feel that both my vocabulary and my writing has improved thorough studying English Combined.

I enjoy 20th Century literature, mainly American (e.g. Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls; Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath) and, for its multilayered, restrained narratives, Russian literature (e.g. Crime and Punishment, and the short stories of Gogol). Though I shied away from science as a subject, growing up in a house of scientists still affected me with a love of science fiction, ranging from the breath-taking scope of Asimov's Foundation series, to the more thought provoking works of Vonnegut and Clarke. In terms of poetry, I enjoy contemporary writers such as Armitage and Larkin, and American poets such as Frost or Pound, but I've also developed an interest in earlier writers like Dante, Chaucer and Donne. Whilst Drama is not the most academic of A Levels, it has stimulated my interest in Greek Tragedy, The Trojan Women and The Bacchae in particular, adding to readings of contemporary dramatists such as Pinter. I particularly like Chekhov for his sense of muted emotion and subtext.

However, not being a total English “geek” (though this claim will be heartily disputed by”pretty much everyone), I take part in public speaking competitions in my spare time: I won the Catenian Association Public Speaking Competition 2008, and came second in the Rotarians 2008, and will shortly be competing in the Catenian International Competition.

Studying Law has helped me develop an interest in current affairs (and, additionally, politics) and studying History has developed my skills in deciphering complex arguments from a variety of sources.
Outside college, I have self-published three volumes of poetry, and published five poems in anthologies. I have also entered my first novel into the Daily Mail first novel writing competition 2008 and am in communication with several literary agents regarding the aforementioned manuscript.

My hobbies include acting. As much as I enjoy this, I've only been in two plays so far, but I hope to increase this number by membership of the Royal Exchange Youth Acting workshop. Ultimately, though, I am an academic before being an actor, and seem to have more success writing plays rather then acting in them. I am also learning conversational Spanish, and in the last few years have developed a interest in the great works of philosophy, such as The Republic and Problems of Philosophy, though my inclination lies with literature.

Edgar Allan Poe once said: “Literature is the most noble of professions”there is no seducing me from the path.” To me, the appeal of Literature is in its both creation and appreciation. I hope to use the skills I learn to become both an accomplished academic and author.

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This personal statement was written by thingsfallapart for application in 2008.

thingsfallapart's Comments

Applied to Cambridge, Durham, York, Bristol and UEA all for English Literature except joint honours with Creative writing at UEA. Got a conditional offer from Bristol so far.

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