English Language and Literature
Submitted by Florrie
Two events, in particular, have both instilled a personal literary curiosity comparable in intensity to Margarita's pursuit of her Master, and revealed the potency and permeability of literature. The first was being told to stop reading Invisible Man and instead read The Hunger Games like my peers. Though both texts have their merit, I struggled to believe that Collins' tale of typical dystopian woe was of any significant superiority to Ellison's grounding Bildungsroman of black-existentialism. I then realised an immediate desire to delve deeper when prescribed a text, and a resentment of feeling intellectually stifled.
A trip to the Oxford Literary Festival then conveyed to me the power of the written word coupled with an author's conviction: Sue Lloyd-Roberts' The War on Women detailed 'chronicles of injustice' that provoked actual societal change. Similarly, only after reading Ginsberg's Howl, could I revel in his abandon of the societal limitations of expression, which led his work to face obscenity charges. In his epic poem there was an angered insistence in his words, at times an unfiltered melancholic madness like nothing I had read before; it was then I realised that up until this point I had so unknowingly and rigidly adhered to a literary approach that was a mere methodical process, void of any open-mindedness or originality. The permeability of literature also justifies my interest as I would struggle to name one area of society it doesn't influence and vice versa: Soviet satire is so intrinsic to The Master and Margarita that it arguably defines its cultural success. Likewise, after reading the distressing but essential The Road, I couldn't help but draw worrying comparisons to the brutal anarchy of the increasingly Realist global system. When speaking of texts that evoke distress, Metamorphoses excited me to the same extent The Wasp Factory dually disgusted and intrigued me. As did Murakami's bleak stylistic presentation of mental illness in Norwegian Wood, certain works of Gothic literature have, however, evoked my most enthusiastic response. Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum's tantalising pacing techniques compelled me so that I read it in one sitting without the need for any belligerently graphic imagery, but it was the ethical dilemmas concerning treatment of the condemned and the imminence of death that allowed this novella to enthral me in the way it did. Similarly, Wilde's richly embellished language in The Picture of Dorian Gray not only appeases the aesthetic greed we all, as readers, may share with Gray to an extent. The novel parallels profound philosophical notions of beauty also divulged to me so vividly in Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, embodied in a single Basil Hallwood quotation: "An artist should create beautiful things but should put nothing of his own life into them", notably echoing Barthes. Wilde's presentation of the danger of reckless artistic immersion only fuels my enthusiasm for literature further, as it proves its often doubted importance and power, especially at a level of higher education.
To push my literary participation past the school syllabus within A-level guidelines, I have also begun writing pieces I intend to provide the Chislehurst Society with, after enquiring with them independently. Along with this extracurricular writing, I have sought out several legal work experience placements at city firms such as Linklaters LLP and Zurich Insurance. The experience of being in a professional environment where words and expression are a principle impetus of corporate success has been bittersweet: I have seen the importance of seminal works of literature and efficient analysis when resolving conflict and implementing justice. However, understanding that such successes come at the cost of the removal of any artistic and creative elements is a conclusion that makes the prospect of prolonging the study of English Literature an unassailably joyful one.