English Literature Personal Statement?

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LeviosaNight
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So i've only recently got into classics because i haven't come across any good classic authors before, but now i'm told i have to start writing my personal statement and there's really only one book I can talk about and a play that i've seen...so this gives me total a of two literature works to use in my entire personal statement.

i'm really uncertain about what to do. Should I go read quick, short stories so I can throw in more works into my personal statement?
and is it a huge mistake to mention what got me into reading (Narnia, Little Women, etc), or should I avoid it at all cost?

Also, I'm interested in creative writing, i've spent a lot of time on it, but i haven't actually finished anything i'm proud of, plus i've done nothing with it in terms of publishing/competition...should i mention it anyway? :/
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Interrobang
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It's probably best to answer each thing in the quote

(Original post by LeviosaNight)
So i've only recently got into classics because i haven't come across any good classic authors before, but now i'm told i have to start writing my personal statement and there's really only one book I can talk about and a play that i've seen...so this gives me total a of two literature works to use in my entire personal statement.

i'm really uncertain about what to do. Should I go read quick, short stories so I can throw in more works into my personal statement?

You've still got time - even if you are applying for Oxbridge, you've got until 15th October. That's lots of time to read something. Look at uni reading lists to get an idea of the sorts of things to focus on
and is it a huge mistake to mention what got me into reading (Narnia, Little Women, etc), or should I avoid it at all cost?

it's best to avoid mentioning common books like this, and also best to focus on recent things (i.e. last two years at most)

Also, I'm interested in creative writing, i've spent a lot of time on it, but i haven't actually finished anything i'm proud of, plus i've done nothing with it in terms of publishing/competition...should i mention it anyway? :/

I'm guessing you aren't applying for courses with a creative writing element? If so, you can mention it briefly, but a sentence or two at most - with the extra curricular activities
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LeviosaNight
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(Original post by *Interrobang*)
It's probably best to answer each thing in the quote
Thank you for answering
it's really helpful information
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Zoelingua
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Do mention one or two classics alongside the modern stuff - it shows you have a broad interest across all forms of literature. And if you can, mention plays and poetry as well as novels. The admissions team would be impressed, as most people forget that there are other forms of literature!

For my personal statement, I had a whole paragraph on my favourite author (Virginia Woolf) and wrote about the modern relevance of her work in terms of feminism and mental illness. You could do the same with a different author possibly?

Also, when I wrote about the subjects I take and why, I chose books that link with them e.g 1984 and Sociology, studying Margret Atwood in AS English

It's also important to show that you exist beyond the realms of literature; don't forget to write about your other interests/hobbies/things you are a part of that would be a great time to include your interest in writing!
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LeviosaNight
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(Original post by Zoelingua)
Do mention one or two classics alongside the modern stuff - it shows you have a broad interest across all forms of literature. And if you can, mention plays and poetry as well as novels. The admissions team would be impressed, as most people forget that there are other forms of literature!

For my personal statement, I had a whole paragraph on my favourite author (Virginia Woolf) and wrote about the modern relevance of her work in terms of feminism and mental illness. You could do the same with a different author possibly?

Also, when I wrote about the subjects I take and why, I chose books that link with them e.g 1984 and Sociology, studying Margret Atwood in AS English

It's also important to show that you exist beyond the realms of literature; don't forget to write about your other interests/hobbies/things you are a part of that would be a great time to include your interest in writing!
thanks for the advice!
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Roseland
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I wrote my personal statement for English Literature last year. If you have any specific questions during the writing process, feel free to ask me and I'll happily get back to you.

(Original post by LeviosaNight)
there's really only one book I can talk about and a play that i've seen...so this gives me total a of two literature works to use in my entire personal statement.
As another user pointed out, you still have a lot of time to read more books. Even if you read them very slowly and acutely analysed them, you could still fit quite a lot of literature in between now and the final deadline. After my interview at my firmed university, I genuinely recommend you go for quality reading over quantity reading (not that I'm bitter or anything).

One thing I'd like to ask is what book you read and what play you saw performed?

(Original post by LeviosaNight)
and is it a huge mistake to mention what got me into reading (Narnia, Little Women, etc), or should I avoid it at all cost?
As is implicit above, try to avoid mentioning things that your memory isn't good enough to elaborate on in a worse case scenario. However, if these are books that you know well or have returned to recently, I think you're underestimating them. Little Women and Lewis are absolutely literature. Lewis sits at the centre of many critical debates about religion, morality, high fantasy, and pastiche in literature. Intellectually, he's an absolutely fascinating figure.

Simultaneously, do not turn these books into a vehicle for autobiography or, if they mean a lot to you, hagiography. Show your individuality, but keep it reserved; on the other hand, don't attempt to turn forty lines into a philosophical treatise on criticism and the canon, just evidence an awareness and an engagement with certain issues that you find particularly interesting, pertinent, or significant. It may feel like a bit of a tight-rope act at times, but revision, editing, and trimming the fat over the next few months should get you a really solid piece of writing.

(Original post by LeviosaNight)
Should I go read quick, short stories so I can throw in more works into my personal statement?
This goes back to my point about quality over quantity. Bear in mind that, just like Narnia and Little Women, stories of modest proportions and difficulty can actually be intellectually stimulating and greatly rewarding experiences. I therefore wouldn't warn you away from reading a lot of short stories; in fact, I'd exhort you to read a lot of them because they pack a lot of substance into a very small space. Just be careful that you're always recognising that fact and enjoying them, otherwise it will be a boring a fruitless activity.

(Original post by LeviosaNight)
Also, I'm interested in creative writing, i've spent a lot of time on it, but i haven't actually finished anything i'm proud of, plus i've done nothing with it in terms of publishing/competition...should i mention it anyway? :/
Unlike Interrobang, I think this may have a lot of potential regardless of whether you're applying to a creative writing course or not. A pure English degree would have no metric for assessment if it was just about lounging around reading books all day. All English degrees will present you with a quintessential challenge: can you compose a piece of writing that argues an interpretation convincingly? It's that question that I'd keep in mind over the next few months as you consider whether to include a passage about your interest in creative writing, because it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that a recreational interest in writing could translate into writing in an academic capacity.
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Interrobang
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(Original post by Roseland)
Unlike Interrobang, I think this may have a lot of potential regardless of whether you're applying to a creative writing course or not. A pure English degree would have no metric for assessment if it was just about lounging around reading books all day. All English degrees will present you with a quintessential challenge: can you compose a piece of writing that argues an interpretation convincingly? It's that question that I'd keep in mind over the next few months as you consider whether to include a passage about your interest in creative writing, because it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that a recreational interest in writing could translate into writing in an academic capacity.
Regarding this point, this comes from a vast experience of reviewing PSs as a PS Helper, when the service was running. The PS (and grades) should show admissions tutors how well you can write. If you talk about creative writing too much, it will likely make the admissions tutors question why you aren't applying for creative writing as a single subject or joint honours.

And it is best to avoid common literature like some of those you mentioned - best to stand out by mentioning something more unique and different
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Roseland
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(Original post by *Interrobang*)
Regarding this point, this comes from a vast experience of reviewing PSs as a PS Helper, when the service was running. The PS (and grades) should show admissions tutors how well you can write. If you talk about creative writing too much, it will likely make the admissions tutors question why you aren't applying for creative writing as a single subject or joint honours.
I respect that and I'm not disagreeing with that: there simply can be too much. What I am doing, however, is providing a frame of reference for what is otherwise a fairly nebulous concept. The yardstick should be the extent to which creative writing has helped one formulate, reflect upon, and express ideas about literature. Firstly, such a metric gives the writer a greater license to judge whether they're giving creative writing too much credit or doing it an injustice. Secondly, by always showing that it is (in some way) an auxiliary skill means that there should never be any confusion about whether someone should be doing a single subject or a joint honours.

(Original post by *Interrobang*)
And it is best to avoid common literature like some of those you mentioned - best to stand out by mentioning something more unique and different
If this is a response to me then it is simply untrue. Best to avoid? The person who arrives at his interview with his hand-annotated Ulysses in a bid to be obscure has become a caricature: generally because it's a facile and rather hollow move. One must absolutely include things that are more obscure and individual - favorite poems, or essays, or autobiographies, or novels - but the best thing to do is be conservative and strategic. In the case of something like Narnia, these things are threefold: it is a book that the OP knows, it is a book that OP enjoys, and very few academics would denigrate it as 'common' literature given the amount of debate that C. S. Lewis has caused (after all, there's still a vein of criticism that holds that Dickens and Jane Austen are pulp).
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PQ
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(Original post by LeviosaNight)
Thank you for answering
it's really helpful information
While it's fine to talk about the books that sparked your interest in lit as an opener to your PS I would strongly agree with the other posters recommending a broad range if lit discussed in your PS. I'd recommend using some courses like these to broaden your reading with some guidance:
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/...use-literature
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/...garcia-marquez
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/...ns-fairy-tales

If you mention creative writing at all it is extremely important to check that ALL of your choices include an optional module on creative writing. Listing it even as a hobby when applying to courses with no creative options is likely to lead to a rejection for not doing basic research on course content.
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Juno
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(Original post by Roseland)
I respect that and I'm not disagreeing with that: there simply can be too much. What I am doing, however, is providing a frame of reference for what is otherwise a fairly nebulous concept. The yardstick should be the extent to which creative writing has helped one formulate, reflect upon, and express ideas about literature. Firstly, such a metric gives the writer a greater license to judge whether they're giving creative writing too much credit or doing it an injustice. Secondly, by always showing that it is (in some way) an auxiliary skill means that there should never be any confusion about whether someone should be doing a single subject or a joint honours.
Saying that you enjoy creative writing merely says that you enjoy creative writing. It doesn't show you have skills to judge literature. Your writing could be "oh my hat! There is a cat sat on the mat". But even if you did write something as delicious as Lolita (the writing is exquisite) it just shows that you can write. It doesn't mean you can read, enjoy, analyse and comment. Simon Cowell isn't a singer, but he's made millions from his opinions.
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Carnationlilyrose
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(Original post by LeviosaNight)
.
http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=2012563

Here is advice from the horse's mouth.
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Roseland
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(Original post by Juno)
Saying that you enjoy creative writing merely says that you enjoy creative writing. It doesn't show you have skills to judge literature. Your writing could be "oh my hat! There is a cat sat on the mat". But even if you did write something as delicious as Lolita (the writing is exquisite) it just shows that you can write. It doesn't mean you can read, enjoy, analyse and comment. Simon Cowell isn't a singer, but he's made millions from his opinions.
I'm not going to argue what I've said endlessly but this is a pure strawman.

Saying that you enjoy creative writing does indeed merely say that you enjoy creative writing. Creative writing does not, in and of itself, mean that you can judge literature. And indeed, Simon Cowell isn't a good critic because he's a good singer post hoc ergo propter hoc.

That's precisely why I've argued none of those things.

I've argued that creative writing can help express opinions. I've argued that in OP's case creative writing may have or may in the future help them express their opinions on literature. I've argued that if, therefore, this creative writing goes beyond enjoyment and actually serves their criticism as an auxiliary skill (see my last post) then it is worth including it. This leaves the OP scope to write quite a bit or none at all; it is up to them because they know their situation more than any of us do.

So that your analogy actually represents what I've said: Simon Cowell may sing sometimes. If asked to sell his criticism, mentioning that he has sung at some point serves a purpose on the condition that he believes it has helped his criticism. Indeed, it is likely that it has. But there is a chance that it hasn't, and in this case he's wise not to include it. It is important for him to bear in mind this dynamic emphasis because he knows how functional his hypothetical singing has been to his criticism more than those asking him, or perhaps more than anyone else.

That's what I've argued simply to get away from the the rather shallow sense of prescriptiveness in some of the other posts. What I will grant you, however, is that Lolita is very good - it's actually amongst my favourites.
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LeviosaNight
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Hello, so I've read and picked some books I really like, but right now the theme running through all my books is the theme of Class (and wealth, I guess)
Would universities prefer if I expanded and talked about other themes, or is it ok that with all my books I basically only focus on the theme of class?
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Juno
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(Original post by LeviosaNight)
Hello, so I've read and picked some books I really like, but right now the theme running through all my books is the theme of Class (and wealth, I guess)
Would universities prefer if I expanded and talked about other themes, or is it ok that with all my books I basically only focus on the theme of class?
Read through the reading lists, and see if this is a topic covered. If it isn't then you do need to cover other things because it will look strange.

Even if it is covered, you might find that your personal statement is improved by being more balanced.
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