English Literature/Religious Studies Personal Statement Example

I'm applying for the course because I'm interested in the intersections between the human and the divine. It's a paradox that puzzles me: how does one articulate spiritual experience which, by its very nature, is beyond words? How do the holy texts of different traditions, the mystics, and the poets aritculate that which goes beyond what we can possibly imagine? And, more fundamentally, why do we as human beings imagine God?

I have had a fascination with religious ritual and imagery since I was a child, but it never occurred to me to develop my own spiritual practice or pursue this interest academically until the autumn of 2019, when I went to volunteer for two months at Bonnevaux, a contemplative community in rural France which also serves as the headquarters of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). The community lives in the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, and daily life is centred around meditation, work, and study. At Bonnevaux I was introduced to a contemplative way of reading scripture, and to Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich, both of whom I have gone on to read and take a great interest in. It also opened my eyes to the mystical traditions of the other major religions - contemplative prayer being a pillar in all of them. I returned in June 2020, taking part in the Young Adults Retreat given by Laurence Freeman OSB, and getting the chance to meet theologian James Alison, who gave a series of talks on the future of Christianity and LGBT+ issues in the Church. My stay at Bonnevaux piqued both my spiritual and my academic curiosity, and I am eager to learn more about the depth and richness of the world's major spiritual traditions.

I believe that an understanding of literature is essential to understanding the world we live in. I enjoy literature as an art form in itself, but I'm also interested in examining the context in which it was written; how art is affected by the political, social, and religious climate of the time it was made, and vice versa. In my third year of STX I wrote my Specialised Study Project in English and History on historical and contemporary representations of Anne Boleyn, analysing excerpts from both Nicholas Sander's The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (1573) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) by Philippa Gregory. The paper went on to discuss whether the different cultural representations of Anne Boleyn are constantly changing reflections of our times, or if there is an underlying narrative that all of the representations have in common. I am fascinated by the power of the narrative; how a story can confirm our worldview or smash it to pieces, and how it can reflect back to us who we are as individuals and as a culture. I believe an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to understanding any narrative in depth, which is why I want to pursue a joint Honours degree.

Since graduating my Danish Studentereksamen in 2018, I have spent most of my time working with children, and for the past year I've been working as a supply teacher at Atheneskolen, a school for gifted children in Copenhagen. As a supply teacher, I have to be on call every morning, ready to teach any subject to children ranging from the ages of 6-16. These children have IQ's over 130, which presents a unique set of challenges, both pedagogically and academically. Many of them have suffered bullying in their previous schools, and a significant proportion of them have diagnoses such as ASD and ADHD. Working with these children has been an absolute joy, and it has confirmed that whichever path I end up pursuing professionally, I want it to involve people - whether it be counselling, teaching, or in the arts. I believe that my dedication, my curiosity, and my life experience make me a well-rounded, independently thinking person. I am excited at the prospect of starting my degree course, and I look forward to immersing myself in the subjects I am passionate about.

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Applied to Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Would love to know what you think!


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