English Literature, Philosophy & Politics Personal Statement
The more extensively one studies any subject, the more common ground one will find it shares with all the others. This can be taken to its furthest extent when applied to literature - because there is nothing that is not, or cannot be, explored in literature. Of course, this is only half of the appeal of reading and writing.
For an example of the second, look to Nabokov - what does, for instance, Lolita, teach us? Only how the English language can be manipulated into something new and exhilarating, wonderfully poetic, wickedly ironic. I have a bad reading habit: I am too easily seduced by a fancy prose style.
There is nothing a true bookworm loves more than rifling through a bookshop, be it the charmingly musty atmosphere of a second-hand store, or the print-fresh fragrance of Waterstones. American literature is my current infatuation: My favourite book right now is Catch-22, an insanely hilarious (yet often extremely thought-provoking) satire set in the Second World War.
I have also recently discovered that contemporary of Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and am absolutely taken with his novels.
They are all strikingly original, all of them terribly sad and terribly funny. A-Level English Literature has helped me to become a better reader; I am able to dissect texts and see the underlying meanings that may be present, and analyse the choices the author has made in language, form and structure.
It has also taught me to improve my writing: it is more flowing, my expression is clearer, I have been able to curb my tendency to digress (just a little). I love exploring the possibilities of language and discovering new writers and books to feed an old obsession.
Last year, a friend and I set up and now run a small book club; we have recently found ourselves (to no complaint!) in an accidentally Russian rut. We have read Dostoevsky, we have read Pasternak, we have read Turgenev, we have (appropriately, given how Nabokovian this repetition sounds) read Nabokov.
Last summer, I organised for the book group to attend a reading of Chuck Palahniuk's - an author of whom I am a huge fan, perhaps best known for his novel Fight Club (later somewhat mutated into the cult film) whose excessively quotable, delightfully cynical social commentary is characterised by its repetetive patterns, unexpected metaphors, and sometimes disturbing themes.
The reading was an incredible experience! I love concerts and have been attending the theatre since I was a child, but there is still something about live performances that will always remain a wonderful surprise to me. That folkish storytelling tradition is such a necessary part of literature.
Either symbiotic or parasitic is the relationship between this love and the other one; philosophy. Anyone who has devoted their time to thinking about what we could perhaps call the fundamental questions of philosophy - those concerning God, and death, and that word so often thrown around (it sounds a little common now) 'purpose', good and evil, right and wrong - will agree it is a rather consuming preoccupation.
When this is the case, us readers can always return to that old escapists retreat of literature - but then, can it not be said that some of the best books ask more questions than they answer? Books are in fact to blame for my interest in philosophy, as they are for many other things: in this instance, it was a combination of a love of the Greek Classics and Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World, a summary of a good two thousand-odd years of philosophers and philosophies.
In the years since, I have read a number of other books on philosophy, most recently returning to my fascination with the ancient Greeks to read Plato's Republic; a mind-blowing excersise in the early days of Greek philosophy. The techniques used and the questions asked are certainly still very applicable today.
My father is also something of a philosopher, and he has developed my interest, teaching me about and debating with me on various complex philosophical issues. In spite of, or more correctly because of my constant (allow me a colloquialism) philosophizing, I have become a christian - if a bit of an unorthodox one. I regularly attend church, and for me the main value of this is the educational one.
Religion has also probably been the spur to the eleven hours of voluntary work I do at the British Red Cross bookshop (which has unexpectedly and brilliantly paid off since the manager asked me to take home any books i'd like!).
This year my sixth form started a twilight A2 in Religious Education: Philosophy and Ethics, and a month into the course, I absolutely love it. It has given me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge in the subject, suggested to me new reading material, and provided an arena for philosophical debate.
An element of philosophy that seems to have gone out of fashion is that of political and economic philosophy. Stubborn and questioning from the first, I took my earliest political stance at three when I became aware of animal cruelty; although this is still an important issue for me, at the moment I excersize more concern over the state of our democracy.
I am a member of a party and various pressure groups - and we are advised, when writing the personal statement, to avoid expressing a political bias either way! I shall try not to, but hope that you concur when I say that I believe in democracy, equality, freedom of speech, and as little government involvement in our lives as can be possible without risking anybody's safety, freedom and prosperity.
My concern over current affairs is, however, steeped in my interest in political theory. As far as that goes, my Sociology A-Level course is of great interest. Sociology covers almost every aspect of our lives, and so informs political theory and debate no end; learning about the various perspectives on how society works pushes you to further question our culture and the prevailing normals and values, and to identify not ontly the problems in society but the possible solutions.
Now, then, for the 'outside interests' - for me, this is mainly in the arts. All too often I hear art galleries described as 'boring', but London's wide variety of galleries and exhibitions are regular haunts for me. As well as being a lover of fine art, I am very into illustration, and am a big fan of the 'Graphic Novel' - or more basically, comics!
My favourite art medium, either this or sculpture - there is something that is much more real and intense in sculpture than in two-dimensional art. Juan Munoz puts this across perhaps better than any other recent artist. I have been drawing and painting for a long time, guided by my artist grandfather, and am taking a Photography A-Level.
I have learned how to compose a good photograph, create an absorbing film sequence, and develop my own photos - as far as I am concerned, the most exciting part.
Music and drama are also loves of mine - I was raised on Bob Dylan, establishing in me particularly an appreciation of lyrics, and I suspect that I have been writing music myself practically as long as I have known how to write!
I can play very simple guitar, but someday would like to develop my abilities, as well as learn other instruments. The theatre is something else I was brought up with, but only in the past year or so have discovered the possibilities of the musical - my favourite being the fairly recent Wicked.
To conclude, very simply: the word 'philosophy' is derived from the greek for 'love' and 'knowledge' - a philosopher, a lover of knowledge. This describes me perfectly.
The depth of my interest is proof that I would be able to develop my own skills and contribute to the course that I choose. I hope I have managed to convey just how much I would value the opportunity to attend a university where i could fully immerse myself in learning.
This personal statement was written by julietisnotthesun. for application in 2008.
This is far too long, if you could offer me any help in deciding what to remove.