English Personal Statement

Emily Bronte had the Yorkshire moors, Austen and Shakespeare had Chawton and London respectively, and I have my bed. This is where their sleeping words are shaken awake by my subjectivity.

This is where I become a man; a spiritually exhausted J. Alfred Prufrock existing in the
impersonal, post-modern world that we share. This is also where I kick that same torpid, balding man in the balls for centuries of sexist oppression with the help of Angela Carter and Francoise Sagan. These masters push me to transgress the boundaries of gender (and species) here and in the classroom, and have led me to recognise the need for the exploration of what feminism means in an increasingly 'post-feminist' time. I need literature like this to mark my day and build my world by. After all surely that is the point of writing: to try and give shape and meaning to a strange, chaotic world that otherwise makes very little sense at all.

The limitations of language fascinate me as I attempt to sculpt my experience and understanding into neat phrases on neat pages such as these, so different from the clutter of my unformed mentalese; indeed it is impossible to say just what I mean. But it is our collective human need to try and appropriate some meaning, however uncertain, to experience that makes literature matter. If language is an inherently unstable medium as we apply Saussure's signifier to the signified, then it must be the alchemical way writers use it that means something.

After participating in the collective female thrust of 'Top Girls' I found the public medium of drama lent itself power to Churchill's socialist-feminist agenda due to its symbiosis with the shared, empowering nature of the theatrical experience, and so perhaps 'meaning' can be constructed through genre. Poetry seems to me most sensitive and effective when used as a vehicle for reflecting a state of mind; my greatest interest studying Donne and Plath at A level were the poets' respective relationships with God and the domestic sphere as they attempt in similar ways to balance surrendering themselves to a force that justifies the universe with the strength of the individual poetic voice.

The sustained introspection of the reading of a novel mimics the growth of the protagonist; my madly-smiling joy at Austen's comic resolution in 'Emma' marked her and my own journey to the liberation of self-knowledge and compelled me to question how I too might live well. By animating humanity within a character's life, the novelist allows my mind to breed links, cross-overs in answer to great philosophical questions. While reading I feel my responses to them in a way that really makes sense, because they are emotional and intuitive, as well as intellectual, and that makes them human.

Recognising this, I thus began to challenge the categories used to divide (and conquer) our lives, so often considered separately from each other and from ourselves. Thus, for me, my A levels in History and Religious Studies, although providing me with the analytical skills to closely and critically discuss texts and introducing me to a huge breadth of classical and modern philosophical thought, became a theoretical and intellectual discipline and thus, supplementary to the vital study of literature.

Literature is therefore, the closest we can get to 'meaning' because it forces us to break down boundaries and resist categories that never really existed and empathise. Its exclusive power must therefore be to unite our subjective experiences in order to truthfully reflect a progressively fragmented global world, where more seems divided than shared. It speaks for the silent, peers under every mossy stone and old bit of linoleum to uncover what we did not know was there. It warms us, provokes us and leads us hand in hand. If all we have is time, then literature provides the future with a document to carry forward the essence of an age: its injustices and its survival strategies, its banalities and triumphs.

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This personal statement was written by Christy for application in 2010.

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