English Personal Statement
Recently, I was reading an interview with Francoise Sagan, author of Bonjour Tristesse, when I came across a quote that defined my love for literature. In the passage, the French writer claimed that while “Life is amorphous, literature is formal”. This may seem an unromantic view, but for me it clearly demonstrates why I had always been drawn to reading fiction while also writing my own. The human condition can seem rambling, disordered and without purpose. Rarely do our experiences connect and collate to resemble a narrative. However, in literature, we can order and lineate experiences, unite them through a single emotion and ascribe meaning to it all. With storytelling, we find a means to cope with the chaos of the universe by forming arcs and resolving conflict.
Last year, I contributed a poem to the high school literary journal, Element, that I wrote in order to deal with my grandmother’s dementia. In the piece, I was able to transform a relationship spanning 18 years into a short, 9-line poem, trim away all the confusion and ambiguity, and reflect on what I felt was truly important. Through the use of imagery, language and a controlled structure, I could illustrate my own impressions and provide the past with some higher meaning. While the problem continues in real life, unconcluded, literature allowed me to find closure.
This powerful yet consoling nature of literature is why I have always wished to explore as much of it as possible. Throughout high school, I found various outlets to pursue this passion. I edited a creative magazine for a Global Concern, where I oversaw the works of fellow writers while also providing monthly reviews on classic novels such as Ham On Rye and Silas Marner. In this position, I was able to develop my skills in analysis as well as observe the distinction between professional authors and hopeful students.
In recent years, I have also taken more of an interest in reading local poetry. Far from a cultural cove, Singapore is more often recognized for its variety of shopping malls than its literary talent. However, in discovering poets such as Arthur Yap, I have uncovered new depths and been able to view the country I once resented in a more understanding and appreciative light. For example, in 2 Mothers, the rhythms of Chinese are interlaced with the precision of English to reflect the failure of colonialism. In Yap’s Expansion, the tragic urbanization of a once-lush island is conveyed through thin yet colourful imagery.
My interest in storytelling is also what led me to pursue filmmaking in the last few years. I have worked as a production assistant on several graduate student films, while also writing and directing my own with a partner outside of school. While many would point to the differences between literature and cinema, I believe that they are essentially two parts of the same animal. As methods of storytelling, both rely on a simple process of selection. The author must choose what to reveal to his reader through a choice of language or perspectives. Meanwhile, the filmmaker directs his audience through composition and framing, what he allows the audience to see. My IB extended essay, entitled “The Modern Auteur”, focuses specifically on the ways in which we can compare a director and an author as artists. Ultimately, I feel that my love of literature is fed, rather than eclipsed, by my love of cinema.
I hope that my time at university will play a big part in shaping my future. If literature gives sense to life - gives it order, momentum, resolution - then I can think of no better way of spending the next three years than studying it full time.
This is just one version of two personal statements I have written. This is probably my most "personal" statement, but it is less conventional.