English Personal Statement 15
What fascinates me about literature is that it is one of the greatest forms of expression and manipulation. Literature can not only reflect and change the course of history; it can also have a profound emotional impact on the individual. In the words of E. M. Forster, great literature "transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote". I have experienced this with many of the works that I've read, in particular Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'. The pulsating, romanticised descriptions of Dean, "a burning shuddering frightful Angel", made it impossible for me to dislike him. It is my love of reading and enthusiasm for close analysis and study which make English the subject that I wish to pursue.
I read widely for pleasure and have explored a range of periods and genres, from Thomas More's 'Utopia' to modernist short stories such as 'Miss Anstruther's Letters'; reading Rose Macaulay's harrowing exploration of loss and decay, framed by her own personal experiences, seemed almost intrusive. I have enjoyed works by Auden, Scott Fitzgerald and Joyce; the parallels between Stephen and Icarus in 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' as he attempts to break free from the constraints of his childhood really interest me. I also admire 'Frankenstein' and 'The Turn of the Screw', the former for its subversive political voice and the latter as a Gothic exploration of the psychological versus the actual.
I am developing an interest in the works of Shakespeare. His plays are to me not only forms of art and escapism in themselves but also deeply thought provoking: 'The Tempest', for example, raises questions of morality and parenthood. I find Shakespeare's essential ambiguity appealing: his work, like that of More, encourages the audience to form their own opinions on complex characters and ideas. Watching 'As You Like It' in performance at the Globe Theatre opened up new interpretations which I hadn't imagined from reading the text. Interestingly the character of Jacques was played by a woman, which seems fitting for a play so concerned with gender roles.
My A Level English studies have been enjoyable, especially the theme of tragedy. I lean towards Bradley's view that Othello is one of Shakespeare's most romantic characters, but feel that there is some truth in Leavis's analysis of his flawed character. Arthur Miller's focus on "the heart and spirit of the average man" inspired me to read more of his work. As a keen follower of current affairs and a member of my local university debating society, I was drawn to the political nature of his plays: their damning critique of capitalism and its consequences for ordinary people is disconcertingly relevant. A study of the pastoral genre this year has introduced me to the haunting realist works of Hardy; the idea of nature in 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' as a conspirer in human suffering struck me as chillingly fatalistic.
As well as going to the theatre whenever I can, I am a member of a county orchestra and play the piano and clarinet to Grades 5 and 8 respectively; I have also been a peer mentor and chair of the school council, actively campaigning for student issues. My work experience at a local school for children with severe learning difficulties was immensely rewarding and I have since returned as a volunteer. The role requires commitment, patience and maturity, attributes which I feel will be invaluable to my university studies.
I enjoy studying History as a companion to English: the context and reception of a work of literature can reveal much about its significance. I also hope that my A Levels in French and German will be useful to me when studying Old and Middle English. The Oxford and Cambridge summer schools in English Literature introduced me to undergraduate level work, which was challenging and stimulating. Academic intensity comes naturally to me; my zeal for literature underpins its intrinsic value in my academic and personal life.
Universities Applied to:
- University of Oxford (English Language and Literature) - Offer (AAA) Firm
- Bristol University (English) - Offer (AAB) Insurance
- Durham University (English Studies) - Offer (A*AA) Declined
- University of Leeds (English Literature) - Offer (AAB) Declined
- University College London (English Language and Literature) - Rejection
- English Literature (A2) - A*
- History (A2) - A
- French (A2) - A
- German (AS) - A
Article by TSR User on Thursday 15 February 2018
As a western tourist in a globalized world, I often find myself surrounded by too much familiarity when travelling internationally. The ubiquity of Starbucks, the growing uniformity of clothing and culture, and the assurance of modern amenities in many parts of the world often leaves me jaded; perhaps there isn’t too much to see anymore (or perhaps I need to travel more). Yet, as I sat in the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Muscat, listening to Abdul Aziz Al-Rowas field our questions, felt as though I had landed in some orientalist film from the 1940’s. The room was ornate, with a painting of a stoic Sultan Qaboos on the front wall presiding over the meeting. Dishdasha clad men quietly circled the room, serving rounds of coffee, fresh juice, and date paste. Unlike a typical citizen, the culture minister wore an Omani dagger around his waist. His words were peppered with references to “his majesty” and “his wisdom” — jarring phraseology to one raised in a democracy.
This scene, juxtaposed with the modern city of Muscat outside, seemed to embody the book gifted to us at the end, “Oman reborn – Balancing Tradition and Modernization.” It seemed to be all part of the carefully constructed, centrally planned reality crafted by the Sultan over the course of his reign. A reality that began only in the seventies, and which consists of whitewashed buildings, clean streets, relative safety, and numerous apolitical freedoms. This combined with a “traditional” Omani identity (largely the result of the government’s construction of history and a mandated dress code), and a moderate local Ibadi Islam have seemingly resulted in a bastion of calm in a region fraught with unrest and the reality of collapsed states. The single palpable tension in the air in Oman is the prospect of the imminent death of the ageing Sultan, who remains in treatment in Europe for cancer, and who has no apparent heir. This begs the question as to whether Oman as it is can survive without his majesty’s guiding wisdom.
In response to a question about external media influence, the Minister noted that, “a healthy organism can absorb things from the outside.” As far he was concerned of course, Oman is the organism, and it is resilient to outside pressures. However, here is where the dichotomy between the Omani people and the Sultanate becomes critical. It is quite possible that Sultanate is the only glue holding the country together, and is in effect the “organism.” If it goes, so does the stability. However, if the Omani people are truly the organism, then the country has a chance of surviving the Sultan’s death.
But this question of Oman’s national cohesion and identity isn’t the only concern for the post-sultan world. The transition to a new sultan comes at an inconvenient time and could be compounded by a confluence of external pressures.
The first of these pressures is the price of oil. Oman, like many of the gulf countries, is primarily an oil-dependent state. Despite efforts to diversify the Omani economy, oil still represents the majority of the country’s gross domestic product. However, in the past four years, the price of oil has dropped from an average of $125 a barrel to approximately $50 today. This has had profound effects on the average Omani citizen and is a dwindling resource. Historically however the relative abundance of Oman’s oil reserves has meant the small population (around four million), has been generously subsidized by the government, in areas such as utilities, gas, and housing. Additionally, there has traditionally been no VAT or income tax imposed on the citizens. However, with the price of oil dropping, many of these subsidies are being slashed. A new VAT is being introduced for the first time, and the imposition of a minor income tax has been discussed for the future. Consumer subsidies will also be scaled back. It can be safely assumed that if this trend in oil prices continues, government welfare programs will continue to shrink. While there might still remain a minor absorptive capacity for discontent, these proposed reforms could have vast consequences for the ruling regime. In Oman during the Arab Spring, most of the demands from youth street protests were largely met by accommodation, in terms of minor political and economic reforms. And while there is currently no overt lingering protest movement, recent history has shown the potential for an “explosion” as one of our speakers at the Oriental Research Center in Dubai phrased it. Omani youth are internet and social media savvy, and it would be unwise to assume that risk there for large scale protests has fully abated.
The other critical factor is regional instability. The GCC is currently involved in an armed conflict to prop up the Yemeni Regime against Houthi rebels. Sultan Qaboos has so far kept Oman neutral in the conflict, and in regional politics at large. However, he has acted as a mediary between the West and the Iranian regime, an anomaly in a Sunni, largely anti-Iranian region. There is no guarantee that Sultan Qaboos’s replacement will have the same steadying hand. Ties to Iran and US could be damaged and Oman could become drawn into regional conflicts.
In the absence of the Sultan, any of these external pressures could create a positive feedback loop that would quickly impact the relative tranquility of Oman. If, however, the Sultan makes a wise choice in his successor, and the transition is supported by the elites and wider population, perhaps Oman has a chance, even a good chance.
By: Yoni Rabinovitch