English Personal Statement
The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that, “It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression. Accordingly, it is to literature that we must look... if we hope to discover the inward thoughts of a generation.” Throughout my years of studying English, like Whitehead, I have come to realise just how important literature is. Literature is a form of self-expression that, when analysed, can allow us to learn more about ourselves and society.
Studying ‘Waiting for Godot’ at Advanced Higher level has opened my eyes to how literature can be interpreted in different ways. Beckett skilfully combines adversity and comedy in the play to emphasise the finiteness of life and the indomitability of human optimism, whilst also exploring society’s class divide and religion. This prompted me to look at the works of other absurdist dramatists, including Eugene Ionesco’s ‘The Bald Soprano’, and examine how they convey the theme of existentialism.
I also have an interest in romantic literature, with Jane Austen being a favourite writer of mine. The way she uses her heroines’ perspectives to look critically at 18th century society and draw attention to women’s reliance on marriage to secure their position within this social hierarchy is something I find particularly interesting. My study of Angela Carter’s short story, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, has enabled me to compare how Austen and Carter both use a female narrative to highlight how women are exploited by the men around them.
Whilst studying the topic of ‘Britain at War and Peace’ in History, I decided to look in detail at the literature of that period, particularly poetry written during the Second World War. Sidney Keyes’ ‘War Poet’ drew me in with its unconventional rhythmic structure which Keyes uses to represent the disintegration of traditional poetry conventions as the he experiences the destruction of war. ‘Desert Flowers’ by Keith Douglas is also evocative of war’s devastation as Douglas comments upon the proximity of death whilst serving in North Africa. By analysing these poems, I have come to understand the topic I am studying in more detail, which has greatly enhanced my knowledge of Britain’s role in the Second World War.
Advanced Higher French has given me scope to delve into the world of French literature, including ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Francoise Sagan. Outside of the classroom, I have read Albert Camus’ ‘L’Etranger’, which examines the writer’s belief that human existence is meaningless and gave me an introduction to translated literature. However, studying French has also enabled me to enhance my written and oral communication skills.
Through subscribing to the Times Literary Supplement, I have been introduced to literary criticism. Listening to their podcast, ‘Jane Austen at 200’, enabled me to gather different interpretations of her works, enriching my reading experience.
This academic year, I have taken on the role of Head Girl, in addition to which, I am also a member of the Charities Committee. As English Captain, I promote the subject within the school, particularly amongst the younger years. Juggling the responsibilities associated with these positions as well as my academic life and extracurricular commitments has developed my time management and organisation skills considerably.
I am also a keen hockey player: I have been playing on the school’s 1st XI for three years. During this time, I have reached both the Scottish Indoor and Outdoor Cup Finals. I hope to continue this hobby at university as it has allowed me to build upon my teamwork and communication skills.
Although Advanced Higher English has begun to prepare me for studying English Literature at university, I am excited to learn much more about the subject and challenge myself to think beyond the constraints of the curriculum.
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Hopefully this is helpful for Scottish students as there are a lot more examples tailored to A levels and the English system! I tried really hard to link everything I had studied in all of my separate subjects back to English and cover a range of different types of literature. This got me unconditional offers from St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as getting me an interview at Selwyn College in Cambridge.
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