English Literature Personal Statement

Sample English Literature Personal Statement

Like many of my generation, my love of literature was originally inspired by Harry Potter. As a non-English reader, however, I was not content to wait for the next Dutch translation and set about teaching myself to read English at the age of 12. Continuing my education in literature through the work of some of the great authors, such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, I gained far more than a command of English. I also gained an awareness and appreciation of their subtle art, which drew me into fascinating worlds and experiences as foreign to me as their language. Endlessly re-reading Austen revealed a complex comedy of manners and commentary on social relations as relevant today as it was when it was written; a far cry from the simple love stories implied by a summary of her plots. Encountering English Literature through these works made me realise the truth in C. S. Lewis’ assertion that, “literature adds to reality; it does simply describe it”. My response to literature has matured as I have; ensuring it plays a continuing role in shaping and illuminating my reality, rather than offering mere description.

Needless to say, the challenge of gaining grounding in the literature of another language has fostered an interest in issues of translation. As a keen Tolkien fan, I have been inspired by his essays and translations to learn more about medieval literature, while reading Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf has also inspired an interest in Anglo Saxon literature that has required a grasp of the basic principles of Old English.

It is not only grappling with issues of translation that has proven my dedication to studying English Literature, however. Due to some unfortunate health problems, I also missed a proportion of my final year at secondary school. Despite this setback, I have dedicated myself to gaining the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake undergraduate study in the field. In 2009, I received special permission from the University of Antwerp to study both their first and second year English courses in a single year. I supplemented this in 2010 with several literature courses taken at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education. Working towards the study of English Literature for over 10 years, I have also tried to build a foundation of critical knowledge through reading a range of work, such as David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction and Bennett and Royle’s An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory. As a keen poetry fan, with limited opportunity to study it, I also enjoyed John Lennard’s The Poetry Handbook. Encountering both fascinating critical ideas and the works to which they relate, such as the use of voice in the writing of Kazuo Ishiguro, has deepened my appreciation of literature and encouraged me to learn more about the creative mechanics that inspire it.

Literature is also central to my extra-curricular pursuits. For 10 years I took drama and elocution classes at theatre school, including analysing poetry and drama. Exploring my understanding through creative writing, I am proud to say that I have had poems and a short story published in various magazines. A classically trained singer and self-taught pianist, I also collaborated with the composer Frits Celis, writing lyrics for a popular choral work. Organising my local library’s book club, I have recently become passionate about transmitting my love of literature through selecting material and leading discussion.

My passion for English Literature has continually driven me to pursue knowledge of the field, despite difficult personal circumstances. As an inquisitive, eager student and zealous reader, I have demonstrated the ability to pursue this knowledge through my own hard work. Being offered the opportunity to bring together this knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm within a formal educational environment would be a delightful opportunity to deliver on the promise and passion that has driven me thus far.

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