• Personal Statement:European literature 1

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MA in European Literature Personal Statement

I am interested in postgraduate study at the University of Bristol for three reasons: the European literature programme allows me to study my major interest academically; the expertise of staff members; and the reputation of the department.

My interest in European literature developed alongside my degree in English, and I have interests in the fiction and non-fiction works of Eastern European (Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka and Ryszard Kapuściński), French (Guy de Maupassant and Anais Nin), Italian (Giovanni Boccaccio and Giacomo Casanova) and Russian (Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Nabokov and Ivan Turgenev, and also the theoretical works of Mikhail Bakhtin and Tzvetan Todorov) writers.

My extended essay is the first substantial piece of independent work that I have undertaken, and investigates the construction of the underground man's identity in relation to a number of literary devices in the novella - notes, prostitute, underground and wet-snow. Presently, I am tracing the “underground consciousness” through Dostoevsky's earlier works, and a number of other writer's works before 1864 too, including Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Lermontov, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev, whilst also considering more specific influences such as Dostoevsky's own short story Mr Prokharchin (1846), Vladimir Odoevsky's short story The Living Corpse (1844) and Alexander Pushkin's short story The Undertaker (1831) too.

I developed my interest in European literature using creative writing, and there are three examples I wish to give. I recently submitted short stories for the Suzanne Furstner Foundation (TEFL scholarship) and the High Sheriff's Cheshire Prize for Literature competitions, using the knowledge I gained from my second year Romanticism and Writing Contexts 2: Philosophy, Society & Culture modules with the extra reading I had done on Boccaccio, Casanova, Kafka and Virgil. The latter was also particularly inspired by Maupassant's short story Clair De Lune (1884), and dealt explicitly with gender theory; a reversal of Eve's fall using sexual motifs. More appropriately, perhaps, the colonial travel writings of Kapuściński and Mary Kingsley in Africa, and Conrad's short story An Outpost of Progress (1896) heavily influenced my entry ('A long walk to the internet') for this years Guardian International Development Journalism competition. I wrote about the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs's ADEN project, which aimed to increase internet access in eleven sub-Saharan countries. I was long-listed for the award and published on the Guardian's website.

I aspire to be a university lecturer and while the programme furthers this goal I have also attempted to further this aspiration alongside my undergraduate degree as best as I could. For example, I worked part-time for Aimhigher as a student mentor in my second year, using my subject knowledge in English to prepare GCSE students for their English language and literature exams. This involved researching fiction and non-fiction texts on the curriculum, creating revision material for students of different abilities, which was then checked by a senior lecturer in my department, and attempting to instil appropriate exam technique.

I believe this experience developed my communication and team-work skills as I worked alongside other mentors on the scheme, and coordinated with staff in the school. I often had to deal with large groups of students on my own too, which was difficult in terms of involving everyone in the session, especially when students did not know one another. But the way I learnt to prepare for sessions and explain ideas was the most valuable experience gained, pedagogically. Consequently, because of my aptitude, enthusiasm and reliability I was invited to participate in Aimhigher's new associates scheme, which launched in November. I will be working part-time at Macclesfield sixth form college from the New Year onwards, and I have also been invited to participate in one of the college's new staff training schemes too.

I have also been accepted onto the Liverpool Student Associates Scheme for secondary English. Manchester Metropolitan University does not offer English placements so I contacted other regional providers and was given a placement less than a day after an interview, which not only proves my suitability for a career in education but also my dedication too. I would actively look to build upon this experience while studying at Bristol.

Universities Applied to:

  • Bristol (MA in European Literature) - Offer (2.1)


General Comments

The University of Bristol's application system was still largely paper-based at this point and, because I had to write this onto paper, I tried to keep the personal statement as short as possible. In retrospect, I should have linked the third paragraph, which briefly outlines my extended essay on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, to Russian staff in the modern languages department who work on the European Literatures programme; Dr Ruth Coates and Professor Derek Offord, for example.

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