English Literature Personal Statement

In one sense, life is incredibly simple. We are bound by the inevitability of death from the moment we are born. However, the stories that are born within that time and the way in which our cultures, religions and the complexity of the human condition impact on the way in which we express is what truly defines us. This connection is what I find fascinating about literature.

In 2017, I spent three weeks teaching in a primary school in Uganda where I was able to not only further my love for the English language but also witness the way in which the other teacher's expression and thus interpretation of literature differed from my own due to their life experiences. This was epitomised by a discussion I had about Hamlet with one of the teachers I worked with who put more emphasis on the religious element of the play than I had upon initial reading due to the strong religious culture in Uganda. This led to me cementing my belief that we cannot appreciate literature fully without an open mind and an understanding of the world around us.

This discussion prompted me to explore Hamlet further which is when I considered the casting of Maxine Peake as Hamlet at The Royal Exchange. The gender restraints put on directors by literature from different time periods are not typically covered in the curriculum and so I was interested in not only how critics reacted to the controversial casting but also how the text may be interpreted differently with a female lead. During my research into this topic, I was surprised to learn that this was not a new phenomenon, that Sarah Bernhardt was met with similar critical acclaim as Peake during her role as Hamlet in 1899.

The exploration of feminism in literature again became part of my reading after an article on feminism in 'The Scarlet Letter' showed me how the presentation of it differs from that of a modern novel such as 'The Handmaid's Tale' as feminism was then less of a radical idea. This sparked an interest in the American Puritan society due to both texts having puritan elements at the core of the plot which led me to exploring how it was portrayed in 'The Crucible'. Despite being written one hundred years apart, I found it fascinating how both 'The Scarlet Letter' and 'The Crucible' utilised the society in which they were set to examine the theme of sin and repentance. All of these texts draw upon the societies in which they are set to influence the characters and thus produce thought provoking literature which forces the reader to question the way in which the world around them shapes their actions.

Having a complete understanding of how we communicate is vital for the study of literature. Through my part time job as a waitress, volunteering at The Countess of Chester Hospital fundraising department and day care centre for the elderly, I have communicated with many different types of people and thus experienced how expression varies depending upon age, race and life experiences. I feel that this has advanced my reading of texts as it has built upon my empathy and communication skills.

Through my involvement with dance, I have also learnt that expression and communication isn't necessarily confined to writing which has influenced me in my choice of topic for my EPQ. I am considering whether dance is an effective way to physicalise poetry which allows for me to combine two of my interests but also forces me to examine poetry from a different perspective than the close reading which the A-Level curriculum demands. This has allowed me to fully appreciate poetry as a vehicle for carrying emotion whilst aiding me in my preparation for my intermediate and advanced vocational dance exams.

I believe that my interest in the world and how this influences my reading of literature makes me suitable for studying English Literature at university. I would like the opportunity to look at the world through literature and compare this to the world as I know it currently.

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