English and Theology Personal Statement
The decision to study both Theology and English rests on my conviction that language itself embodies the possibility of communion between one person and another, and in so doing points beyond itself to that reality which constitutes this very interconnectedness. The urgency of whether language does in fact operate in this way - that is, theologically - was first presented to me through literature and the arresting contrast between those who see language as a means only of measuring our own isolation (i.e. Sylvia Plath's 'Resolve') and those who see that the very presence of language establishes the hope of communion (i.e. T.S. Eliot's 'Little Gidding'). If language is the cartography of articulation, the watercolours with which to paint our vision of the world, what happens when we encounter language as a barrier that leaves us with nothing but a mere vision, with no connection to reality or no sense of anything real at all? Perhaps the revelation that our words are not ultimate but that it is we who are addressed first by the Word who became flesh. Through literature I found myself unexpectedly claimed by Christian tradition and responding to this Word that literature presupposes.
The influence of Christianity on literature, and indeed literature on Christianity, is one I have discovered with great enthusiasm. Over the past two years I have seen these two subjects cross many paths and become like sparking dendrites across a once derelict mind. To read 'The Four Quartets' without St John of the Cross, or 'The Brothers Karamazov' without knowing Russian Orthodoxy seems to me to lose a great wonder of allusion in writing which so often points to beyond itself, and beyond language. We cannot always use someone else's words to express our experience of the world but, on occasion, the language of others is like a lattice sustaining our ability to communicate a common experience - unveiling the Word that joins together all our understanding - sharing, perhaps, both in the desperation of John Clare's 'I am', and in the awe of Blake's 'The Tyger'.
This trust in the capacity of language has effected in me a need to attempt an understanding of Theology and what the consequences of studying such a subject might be. As with language, so I have had to learn what Theology itself means. Theology is not the dispassionate study of God, but our rediscovery of the world in the light of God who is passionately seeking us out in the midst of our incomprehension. Theology is not a gathering of knowledge, a mere intellectual pursuit, a good argument in defence of Faith, but an opening up to truth and taking the weight of it; and to do this we must trust, as we do every time we utter a word, in the existence of something other than ourselves, alone. Thus I am implicated in the study of Theology as well as English, with a responsibility to attempt to speak the truth, as is proposed in 'Holiness, Speech and Silence' by Nicholas Lash, and a primary duty to listen.
In reaction to the dichotomy present throughout the history of language and literature, illustrated here through reference to Plath and Eliot, I place my faith in Eliot's 'Little Gidding', in the hope that we may encounter words in communion and understanding with others, and with the world as it truly is. Thomas Merton in his 'Seeds of Contemplation' cries out to the reader to hope, and risk frustration, as we might love and risk obduracy, rather than be one who, for fear of failure, will never attempt anything. It is this call to risk and celebrate communion, persistently reverberating through and beyond language, that has underpinned and confirmed my decision to further explore both English and Theology.
Universities Applied to:
- University of Edinburgh: English Literature and Religious Studies - Unconditional Offer
- University of St Andrews: English - Theological Studies - Unsuccessful
- University of Leeds: English and Theology & Religious Studies - Unconditional Offer
- University of Nottingham: English and Theology - Unsuccessful
- University of Aberdeen: English and Religious Studies - Unconditional Offer
- English (A2) - A*
- Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (A2) - B
- Theatre Studies (A2) - B
- History (AS) - Grade A
- This was actually written fairly particular to the Nottingham course which makes it even more of a bummer that they rejected me. In fact, this personal statement may be about to become redundant because I am seriously considering reapplying to Nottingham next year. That is why I put it up, so I didn't write it in vain. Hope it is useful.