Personal Statement Criticism

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Anonymous User
Posts: 326533
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Personal Statement Criticism

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:04 am

What I was trying to show here:
~Intellectual curiosity
~Writing ability
~That I am interesting

Let me know if you hated it, liked it, etc.
I'm considering going back to the drawing board & writing something more conventional.
********************************************************

For most of my life, my experience of fiction was limited to the few novels assigned in middle and high school English classes. Possessing a practical mind and political aspirations, I preferred works of history with sweeping theses, whether those of Hobsbawm or Hofstadter, and political philosophy with forthright directives, whether Mill’s On Liberty or Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto. During the summer after my sophomore year of college, I resolved to remedy this situation. I garnered reading suggestions from review essays and erudite friends, borrowed dozens of volumes from the library, and devoured them whenever I had the chance. Many selections reflected my interests in history and politics, including All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American by Graham Greene, and the historical novels of Gore Vidal and Hilary Mantel. Others dealt with personal and social relations, including The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James, Howards End by E. M. Forster, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. My favorite genre was the social satire, perfected by Evelyn Waugh in his early novels like Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, and Scoop. I did not forsake nonfiction but chose works acclaimed for their literary merits, such as Henry Adams’s Education and essays by Baldwin, Vidal, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion.
My first discovery was just how versatile a tool the English language could be when wielded with genius. I marveled at Henry James’s ornate, protracted sentences filled with anxiety and deliberation. Isherwood, Orwell, and Greene provided a useful contrast. Their sentences tended towards brevity and used simple but powerful language to portray the world with stark realism. Others, like Forster and Waugh, blended styles in ways I initially found jarring. Waugh, for instance, combined lavish descriptions of country estates, sardonic character sketches, and rapid-fire dialogue, replete with colloquialisms. Likewise, Gore Vidal’s essays mixed references to ancient philosophy with allusions to Hollywood classics and gossip about contemporaries with serious historical inquiry. Later I decided these amalgams were most engaging of all and sought to bring similar spontaneity to my stilted style.
I was also impressed by the ability of literature to convey the emotions and thoughts I found difficult to express. Afflicted as I was that summer with what the Germans call angst and Weltschmerz — personal anxiety and anguish at the state of the world — I identified with two characters who were both cynical journalists. The first was Jack Burden, the narrator of All the King’s Men and an aide to Willie Stark, the despotic governor at the center of that novel. Burden executed Stark’s devious schemes because he lay in a morass of nihilism, convinced that life was meaningless and a random “Great Twitch” caused all actions. The second was Thomas Fowler, the narrator of The Quiet American and a British reporter in French Indochina. Fowler was a man plagued by conflicting beliefs and impulses. In his professional life, he pursued detachment and neutrality but perceived the futility and perversity of French colonialism and American intervention. In his personal life, he both craved and dreaded death. Though Burden and Fowler did great harm, their motivations were complex and intelligible. The evocative descriptions of their inner turmoil made me feel less lonesome in my own malaise, even if they provided no easy solutions.
My delight in the work of Evelyn Waugh, to take another example, stemmed from his fusion of scintillating prose with outrageous — even appalling — plots to produce a scathing but never didactic critique of modern life. His early novels began as farces, satirizing the frivolity of high society and the philistinism of the middle class, and ended as absurdist tragedies. Brideshead Revisited, Waugh’s most poignant work, evoked emotions in me at least as strong as those I have experienced reading any other text. This was a testament to the author’s genius, for I had never set eyes upon a manor like Brideshead and lacked the religious faith which imbued the narrative. While I detested Waugh’s reactionary politics, the elegance of his stories led me to sympathize with his sorrow at the passing of a romantic world and the coming of a new age dominated, as Burke had lamented, by “sophisters, economists, and calculators.”
The pleasure and wisdom I found in novels stirred within me literary as well as political ambitions. I spent restless hours contemplating how to reconcile the desire to write beautiful fiction with the desire to shape public policy. In this quest, my beaux idéals were the patrician radicals Henry Adams and Gore Vidal. Rebuffed in their forays into electoral politics, they turned to the written word, dissecting the failings of American culture and politics in lapidary prose that spanned genres. For a time I wished to emulate them, exposing corruption, greed, and sadism in America’s past and present while espousing a skeptical faith in democracy. I set to work honing my creative writing skills, which had lain dormant throughout my adolescence. My experiments filled several notebooks with short stories and fragments of novels and led me to explore literary criticism.
I realized I could not spend my life simply observing society and criticizing its failings. Perhaps I could write, after the requisite years of trial and error, an ingenious satire, flaying the social and political vices I observed and abhorred. Perhaps it could shape the thinking of the few literate politicians and pundits or even meet with popular success, inserting my ideas into the public consciousness. The task was prodigious, but I welcomed the challenge. In more sober moods, however, I knew it was far more likely that my stories, no matter how elegant the prose, trenchant the wit, and inventive the plots I might employ, would only further the spirit of cynicism I already witnessed around me. I would become a gadfly stinging the body politic yet never inciting it to action. Others would continue to write, interpret, and enforce the laws and policies that concentrate or distribute wealth, pillage or protect nature, and wage or avert war. Like Burden and Fowler, I found that ironic detachment was an untenable position. While I appreciated art for its own sake, I was unwilling to withdraw from the fray to produce it.
That realization was a crucial aspect of my decision to study law. Like literature, law demands attentive exegesis and lucid composition. Contrary to popular belief, it is a field that has produced superb nonfictional prose, as I discovered upon reading Cardozo, Holmes, and Jackson in a course on the philosophy of law. At the same time, it is a practical pursuit which offers copious opportunities to grapple with the political and social questions I find so fascinating in theory and practice. For these reasons, I believe studying law will allow me to unite my fascination with words and language with the desire to find just solutions to the crises that I cannot ignore. Besides, the law does not require me to abandon my dream of writing fiction — as Henry Fielding and Louis Auchincloss demonstrate, nothing precludes a lawyer or jurist from composing brilliant satire.

TheLaw1995

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Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:12 pm

Re: Personal Statement Criticism

Postby TheLaw1995 » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:What I was trying to show here:
~Intellectual curiosity
~Writing ability
~That I am interesting

Let me know if you hated it, liked it, etc.
I'm considering going back to the drawing board & writing something more conventional.
********************************************************

For most of my life, my experience of fiction was limited to the few novels assigned in middle and high school English classes. Possessing a practical mind and political aspirations, I preferred works of history with sweeping theses, whether those of Hobsbawm or Hofstadter, and political philosophy with forthright directives, whether Mill’s On Liberty or Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto. During the summer after my sophomore year of college, I resolved to remedy this situation. I garnered reading suggestions from review essays and erudite friends, borrowed dozens of volumes from the library, and devoured them whenever I had the chance. Many selections reflected my interests in history and politics, including All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American by Graham Greene, and the historical novels of Gore Vidal and Hilary Mantel. Others dealt with personal and social relations, including The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James, Howards End by E. M. Forster, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. My favorite genre was the social satire, perfected by Evelyn Waugh in his early novels like Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust, and Scoop. I did not forsake nonfiction but chose works acclaimed for their literary merits, such as Henry Adams’s Education and essays by Baldwin, Vidal, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion.
My first discovery was just how versatile a tool the English language could be when wielded with genius. I marveled at Henry James’s ornate, protracted sentences filled with anxiety and deliberation. Isherwood, Orwell, and Greene provided a useful contrast. Their sentences tended towards brevity and used simple but powerful language to portray the world with stark realism. Others, like Forster and Waugh, blended styles in ways I initially found jarring. Waugh, for instance, combined lavish descriptions of country estates, sardonic character sketches, and rapid-fire dialogue, replete with colloquialisms. Likewise, Gore Vidal’s essays mixed references to ancient philosophy with allusions to Hollywood classics and gossip about contemporaries with serious historical inquiry. Later I decided these amalgams were most engaging of all and sought to bring similar spontaneity to my stilted style.
I was also impressed by the ability of literature to convey the emotions and thoughts I found difficult to express. Afflicted as I was that summer with what the Germans call angst and Weltschmerz — personal anxiety and anguish at the state of the world — I identified with two characters who were both cynical journalists. The first was Jack Burden, the narrator of All the King’s Men and an aide to Willie Stark, the despotic governor at the center of that novel. Burden executed Stark’s devious schemes because he lay in a morass of nihilism, convinced that life was meaningless and a random “Great Twitch” caused all actions. The second was Thomas Fowler, the narrator of The Quiet American and a British reporter in French Indochina. Fowler was a man plagued by conflicting beliefs and impulses. In his professional life, he pursued detachment and neutrality but perceived the futility and perversity of French colonialism and American intervention. In his personal life, he both craved and dreaded death. Though Burden and Fowler did great harm, their motivations were complex and intelligible. The evocative descriptions of their inner turmoil made me feel less lonesome in my own malaise, even if they provided no easy solutions.
My delight in the work of Evelyn Waugh, to take another example, stemmed from his fusion of scintillating prose with outrageous — even appalling — plots to produce a scathing but never didactic critique of modern life. His early novels began as farces, satirizing the frivolity of high society and the philistinism of the middle class, and ended as absurdist tragedies. Brideshead Revisited, Waugh’s most poignant work, evoked emotions in me at least as strong as those I have experienced reading any other text. This was a testament to the author’s genius, for I had never set eyes upon a manor like Brideshead and lacked the religious faith which imbued the narrative. While I detested Waugh’s reactionary politics, the elegance of his stories led me to sympathize with his sorrow at the passing of a romantic world and the coming of a new age dominated, as Burke had lamented, by “sophisters, economists, and calculators.”
The pleasure and wisdom I found in novels stirred within me literary as well as political ambitions. I spent restless hours contemplating how to reconcile the desire to write beautiful fiction with the desire to shape public policy. In this quest, my beaux idéals were the patrician radicals Henry Adams and Gore Vidal. Rebuffed in their forays into electoral politics, they turned to the written word, dissecting the failings of American culture and politics in lapidary prose that spanned genres. For a time I wished to emulate them, exposing corruption, greed, and sadism in America’s past and present while espousing a skeptical faith in democracy. I set to work honing my creative writing skills, which had lain dormant throughout my adolescence. My experiments filled several notebooks with short stories and fragments of novels and led me to explore literary criticism.
I realized I could not spend my life simply observing society and criticizing its failings. Perhaps I could write, after the requisite years of trial and error, an ingenious satire, flaying the social and political vices I observed and abhorred. Perhaps it could shape the thinking of the few literate politicians and pundits or even meet with popular success, inserting my ideas into the public consciousness. The task was prodigious, but I welcomed the challenge. In more sober moods, however, I knew it was far more likely that my stories, no matter how elegant the prose, trenchant the wit, and inventive the plots I might employ, would only further the spirit of cynicism I already witnessed around me. I would become a gadfly stinging the body politic yet never inciting it to action. Others would continue to write, interpret, and enforce the laws and policies that concentrate or distribute wealth, pillage or protect nature, and wage or avert war. Like Burden and Fowler, I found that ironic detachment was an untenable position. While I appreciated art for its own sake, I was unwilling to withdraw from the fray to produce it.
That realization was a crucial aspect of my decision to study law. Like literature, law demands attentive exegesis and lucid composition. Contrary to popular belief, it is a field that has produced superb nonfictional prose, as I discovered upon reading Cardozo, Holmes, and Jackson in a course on the philosophy of law. At the same time, it is a practical pursuit which offers copious opportunities to grapple with the political and social questions I find so fascinating in theory and practice. For these reasons, I believe studying law will allow me to unite my fascination with words and language with the desire to find just solutions to the crises that I cannot ignore. Besides, the law does not require me to abandon my dream of writing fiction — as Henry Fielding and Louis Auchincloss demonstrate, nothing precludes a lawyer or jurist from composing brilliant satire.


It's an interesting angle, but it comes off more like a literary review than a personal statement. It's already established that you like fiction/non-fiction in the first paragraph, so don't spend the next paragraphs belaboring this point (in addition, it could also alienate the assessor. Although you do state the author and title of the works you discuss, the assessors may still be unfamiliar with them, and so reading all this analysis without background knowledge could be discomfiting). Also, your prose seems somewhat stilted/bloated; varied vocabulary is welcome in a personal statement (as in any writing) but try simplifying it at times (example, your use of the word "beaux ideals [?]"). On that note, also try to minimize the theatrics ("...after the requisite years of trial and error..."). In addition, it is very long. Most personal statements are meant to be two pages, at maximum, double-spaced. This appears longer - you should cut it. You should also expand on your interest in law. I get that you're using your interest in literature to differentiate yourself and create a buildup, but your explanatory paragraph - in which you finally delve into "why law" - sounds thin, and seems like it's a backup option, chosen out of convenience (i.e. because of the limitations of literature to exact change), rather than out of a genuine desire.

To summarize, the literature angle is interesting! Just minimize the literary analysis, use less bloated and dramatic language, and provide a compelling reason for "why law" that doesn't sound like it's a second-best choice.

Anonymous User
Posts: 326533
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Personal Statement Criticism

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 31, 2018 10:28 pm

I cut out a paragraph and a few especially melodramatic turns of phrase. Looking for more feedback; having a good deal re-writing the final paragraph in a way that doesn't make law sound like an afterthought.
For a long time, my experience of fiction was limited to a few novels assigned in high school English classes. Possessing a practical mind and political aspirations, I preferred works of history with sweeping theses or political philosophy with forthright directives. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I decided to remedy that neglect. I garnered reading suggestions from review essays and erudite friends, borrowed dozens of volumes from the library, and devoured them whenever I had the chance. Many selections reflected my interests in history and politics, including All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, The Quiet American by Graham Greene, and the historical novels of Gore Vidal and Hilary Mantel. Others dealt with personal and social relations, including The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James, Howards End by E. M. Forster, and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. My favorite genre was the social satire, perfected by Evelyn Waugh in his early novels like Vile Bodies and A Handful of Dust. I did not forsake nonfiction but chose works acclaimed for their prose, such as Henry Adams’s Education and essays by Vidal, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion.
My first discovery was the versatility of the English language when wielded with genius. I marveled at Henry James’s ornate, protracted sentences filled with anxiety and deliberation. Isherwood, Orwell, and Greene provided a useful contrast. Their sentences tended towards brevity and used simple but powerful language to portray the world with stark realism. Others, like Forster and Waugh, blended styles in ways I initially found jarring. Waugh, for instance, combined lavish descriptions of country estates, sardonic character sketches, and rapid-fire dialogue, replete with colloquialisms. Likewise, Gore Vidal’s essays mixed references to ancient philosophy with allusions to Hollywood classics and gossip about contemporaries with serious historical inquiry. Later I decided that these amalgams were the most engaging of all and sought to bring similar spontaneity to my stilted style.
I was also impressed by the power of literature to convey the emotions and thoughts I found difficult to express. Afflicted with melancholy that summer, I identified with two characters who were cynical journalists. The first was Jack Burden, the narrator of All the King’s Men and an aide to Willie Stark, the despotic governor at the center of that novel. Burden carried out Stark’s devious schemes because he lay in a morass of nihilism, convinced that life was meaningless and all actions were the result of a random “Great Twitch." The second was Thomas Fowler, the narrator of The Quiet American and a British reporter in French Indochina. Fowler was a man plagued by conflicting beliefs and impulses. He pursued neutrality in his professional life, even though he realized the perversity of French colonialism and US intervention. In his personal life, he both craved and dreaded death. Though Burden and Fowler did great harm, their motivations were complex and intelligible. The evocative descriptions of their inner turmoil made me feel less lonesome in my own unhappiness, even if they provided no easy solutions.
My delight in the work of Evelyn Waugh, to take another example, stemmed from his fusion of scintillating prose with outrageous—even appalling—plots to produce a scathing but never didactic critique of modern life. His early novels began as farces, satirizing the frivolity of high society and the philistinism of the middle class, and ended as absurdist tragedies. Brideshead Revisited, a later and more poignant work, evoked in me emotions stronger than those I have experienced reading any other text. This was a testament to the author’s genius, for I had never set eyes upon a manor like Brideshead and lacked the religious faith which imbued the novel. While I detested Waugh’s reactionary politics, the elegance of his prose led me to sympathize with his sorrow at the passing of a romantic world and the coming of a new age dominated, as Burke had lamented, by “sophisters, economists, and calculators.”
Finding pleasure and wisdom in novels stirred within me literary as well as political ambitions. I set to work honing my creative writing skills, which had lain dormant throughout my adolescence. These experiments filled several notebooks with short stories and fragments of novels and led me to explore literary criticism. I came to realize, however, that I could not spend my life simply observing society and criticizing its failings. Perhaps I could write ingenious satires which castigated the social and political vices I observed and abhorred. Perhaps they could shape the thinking of a few literate politicians and pundits or even meet with popular success, forcing my ideas into the public consciousness. It was far more likely that such stories, no matter how elegant the prose, trenchant the wit, and inventive the plots, would only further the spirit of cynicism I witnessed around me. Others would write, interpret, and enforce the laws and policies that concentrate or distribute wealth, pillage or protect nature, and wage or avert war. Ironic detachment was an untenable position.
That realization was one of the reasons I decided to study law. Like literature, law demands attentive exegesis and lucid composition. Contrary to popular belief, it is a field that has produced superb nonfictional prose, as I discovered upon reading Cardozo, Holmes, and Jackson in a course on the philosophy of law. At the same time, it is a practical pursuit which offers ample opportunity to grapple with the political and social questions I find so fascinating in theory and practice. For these reasons, I believe studying law will allow me to unite my fascination with words and language with the desire to confront the crises that I cannot ignore. Besides, the law does not require me to abandon my dream of writing fiction. As Henry Fielding and Louis Auchincloss demonstrate, nothing precludes a lawyer or jurist from composing brilliant satire.



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