For me, English is the only area of study that gives me a genuine insight into the intrinsic complexities of the human condition. The study of English is the study of both self and collective expression: any piece of writing can be looked at as intensely individual, but also representative of its context. For example, Orwell's '1984' and Huxley's 'Brave New World' have both changed the way in which I think about the world I live in: my country's history, my Government, my language. Reading '1984' and seeing it performed recently at the Playhouse Theatre, showed me its relevance today - the idea of 'Newspeak' and the consequent destruction of human concepts through the deletion of words (like 'freedom') shows how integral language is in structuring and limiting human expression, thoughts and ideas. Contemplating this made me understand that the use of words, and thus the realm of language and literature, give me a profound freedom of thought and self-expression that simply can't be accessed via any other medium.
I am drawn to literature that has a powerful individual voice. Accordingly, my favourite poets are those who explore the intimate nature of self-expression and self-revelation. Sylvia Plath's lack of inhibition in her subject matter intrigues and resonates with me, as the confessional nature of her poetry gives it echoes of internal speech, thus removing barriers which usually exist between reader and author. The relationship between Plath and Ted Hughes, both as writers and as people, absolutely fascinates me - 'Birthday Letters' and 'Ariel' are two of my favourite collections of poetry. Poems such as Plath's 'Daddy' and their exploration of hegemonic masculinity and systematic patriarchy interest me, and have fuelled my strong interest in literary criticism informed by feminist theory, which I have applied to 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' in my English studies, and Ibsen's 'A Doll's House' in Drama. I've also applied it to my wider reading, noting the interesting inversion of genders in Duffy's 'A World's Wife'; the refreshingly frank nature of Caitlin Moran's writing; and Woolf's ideas about female representation in 'A Room of One's Own'. I also enjoyed studying the role of women in Homer's Odyssey - the epic poem which gave me an initial appreciation of formative literature, and an interest in how literature changes and develops throughout time. I have gained an appreciation of literary context by studying History; source analysis has allowed me to gain a sense of the power that language can have in real life, especially through speeches and propaganda.
I want to understand further, and fully immerse myself into, the culture of literature. As part of my Drama A-Level, I will be devising a piece of theatre that delves into the context behind Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', and, in a broader sense, explores how we deal with texts that were created in unfamiliar contexts. For example, how does a fascination with the preservation, or destruction, of innocence and childhood in a female, on the cusp of adolescence, link Carroll's children's book and Nabokov's decidedly more adult 'Lolita'?
As an English and a Drama prefect, and as a professional tutor, I've had the opportunity to help both younger and fellow students in their studies, enriching their interaction with prose, poetry and plays - from Shakespeare to Berkoff. Being able to teach gives me a clarity of thought regarding the practical effects of literature, and how different people relate to and interact with it. I believe that much of my writing is influenced by reading, and that the two disciplines are inherently linked, thus each can be improved by practising the other. My experiences, and the experiences that I aspire to have, are what make me realise that I have no option, nor desire, to devote myself to anything other than English.