English and History Personal Statement
Submitted by Alicia
Studying English Literature and History at A Level has taught me to become increasingly analytical and encouraged me to seek out new literature. Whether examining the historical context of core texts studied in English or exploring literature from a previous era, I have gained a deeper understanding of how society functioned at that time. For example, "The Road to Wigan Pier" provided a fascinating insight in to the grittiness of working-class Britain before the Second World War. Furthermore, a seminar I participated in at Queen Mary's University on "British Politics and Society after the First World War" aided my critical evaluation of such sources by identifying how Orwell's account has limited validity due to its observational nature. Exploring how cultural and historical changes have affected writer's identities and influenced their works is a key area I hope to develop a further understanding of during a year studying abroad as part of my degree course. This was illuminated by undertaking a 140-hour course on Teaching English as a Foreign Language, which has widened my exposure to the international reception of literature and excited me with the prospect of exploring the broad spectrum of attitudes towards literature.
I am currently completing an Extended Project Qualification on the history of 1970s British punk in comparison to current cultural movements. This has fuelled my curiosity in contemporary literature as I have been able to study different publication formats and their role in mobilizing political history. For example, the DIY movement of punk zines in the late 1970s in response to Britain's disaffected youth in the "Winter of Discontent" and through the poetry of the punk poet John Cooper Clarke. This has strengthened my capability to link the tone of a text to its historical purpose and to independently critique sources.
Furthermore, attending talks by cultural icons such as Vivienne Westwood "the subversive creator of punk" on literature that inspired her career ignited my interest in how women's occupations are depicted in works from the 19th to 21st century. This led me to explore modern interpretations of the character Ophelia in Hamlet for which my presentation achieved an academic commendation. My historical analysis of women's roles was heightened by a lecture I attended on "Women at Work in the 20th century", investigating economic factors in the book "Women's Work 1840-1940" and gender and ethnicity's profound impact in Catherine Hall's "White, male and middle class: Explorations in Feminism and History". Through such further reading, I developed a valuable sensitivity of the historical intertextuality between my literature coursework texts Wide Sargasso Sea and Emily Dickinson's poetry, while having enhanced my insight from the perspective of the 1800s feminist.
As a member of my college's debating society, I revel in discussing and analysing contemporary issues which are imperative to literature and the occurrence of historical events. I volunteer at a live music venue where I avidly source new bands and promote their music, demonstrating my ability to communicate effectively to an audience which my role as a reading mentor to younger pupils has also encouraged. As part of the university community and a naturally conscientious person, I am eager to contribute to the university publication or radio station to share my creative ideas, the delivery of which has been boosted by a taster day in journalism. Balancing my studies alongside my role as a part-time waitress has refined my time management skills and ability to work under pressure. My role as a student ambassador and student union form representative at college, coupled with my interest in live music events, gallery and museum exhibitions and roles in theatrical adaptations of literature epitomizes my boundless enthusiasm that I intend to bring to all aspects of university life.