When I entered the English major nearly immediately after beginning my freshman year, I viewed it first and foremost as a pathway to developing a set of skills necessary for law school. To my naïve fresh-out-of-high school mind, law school required well-developed writing skills, and the English major would undoubtedly challenge me to read, analyze, and write on dense texts for the following four years.
My secondary reason was perhaps more whimsical and less immediately practical. In high school, I read the Pamela Dean’s novel Tam Lin, in which she rests the Scottish border ballad of the same name in a small liberal arts college. Specifically, her characters were English majors who discussed and quoted literature at the drop of a hat, attended plays, debated philosophy, and studied a range of texts with demanding professors in Socratic-style seminars. While the author’s endnote led me to suspect much of this to be shamelessly reconstructive nostalgia at work, I nonetheless longed on a personal level for an environment with that intellectual engagement. In retrospect, the direction of my scholarly work over the past four years has exceeded these initial goals. My experience both in the classroom and in outside faculty-guided research developed my ability to analyze a variety of texts as arguments, and instilled a scholarly interest in examining and uncovering developing modern attitudes and issues in literature, shaping me to be a strong candidate for law school.
As I moved past the introductory English courses, I discovered that far beyond strengthening my ability to simply write well in some vague sense, wrestling with class materials required me to wade through ambiguity and craft tightly structured logical arguments in my papers. I first encountered this when tackling John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and The Subjection of Women in identifying, highlighting and then attempting to bridge the flaws in his reasoning. Examining a well-established argument for flaws rather than simple comprehension pushed me beyond the role of a passive reader, and I found myself researching the logical underpinnings of utilitarianism and the black swan theory in order to search for holes in Mill’s arguments. In looking back, this experience marked a key point of scholarly growth, not only introducing me to active research and self-synthesis, but critical nature of logical consistency in argumentative writing.
The second key instance of growth occurred while I studied abroad in London, writing my final paper on evolving British attitudes towards female sexuality as examined by Ian McEwen in Saturday under the direction of Professor Sydney Kaplan. Up until that point, my focus had been on pre-19th century literature, however, this paper led me to discover an interest in both feminist theory and the examination of its portrayal cin contemporary media. The discovery of this interest expanded into a yearlong independent research project, in which I worked with Saturday as well as McEwen’s Atonement and On Chesil Beach in order to trace McEwen’s portrayal of the developing attitudes towards female sexuality between the 1940s to early 2000s, as well as subsidiary issues of rape-blame, victimization and the consequences of the male aggressor stereotype. My previous focus on earlier literature, I realized, stemmed largely from my unawareness that contemporary, “pleasure-reading” literature could in fact be used for scholarly pursuits, that novels could function both as entertainment and as persuasive texts containing arguments. In this project, I went beyond textual analysis, reading supplementary sociological texts as well as reviews and reactions to the issues at hand, culminating in a presentation at the undergraduate research symposium. Additionally, I examined Atonement in conjunction with Audrey Niffinegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love for their portrayals of time, memory, waiting and the application of those elements to the literary tradition of star-crossed love, writing my 30 page honors thesis on the subject.
My preference for designing my research projects firstly around central texts and their meanings prepares me to perform similar types critical analysis on legal texts. As Ronald Dwokin states in Law as Interpretation, one can “improve (one’s) understanding of law by comparing legal interpretation with interpretation of other fields of knowledge, particularly literature.” Ultimately, I believe there to be a mutability of meaning in all texts, whether literary or legal. Thus, my experiences over the last four years have irrevocably shaped me into a scholar well prepared for the rigors of law school.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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I love literature/reading, but this statement is boring. You reference literature too much. I feel like they can understand the strength of your scholarship from your GPA and your resume (it sounds like you're still in college, yeah?). If I were in admissions, I probably wouldn't eliminate you from the running for this statement, but I don't think it's compelling or interesting.
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