Even since I was a child I loved books, even before I could read. The pictures, the texture of the book, all held fascination for me. My parents would read to me every day and instilled a love of books in me. I won first prize for reading a poem by Tennyson when I was eight years old. I love the excitement and thrill of starting a new book. It is like entering a whole new world. Will it enlighten or entertain me, or will it make me laugh or cry? Literature can inform, inspire and motivate us without being overtly didactic. Novels like Brave New World and 1984 stimulate the imagination, as do Lord of the Rings and Animal Farm. I believe that literature can be an instrument of reform and change in the society. One of Dicken’s novels, Little Dorrit gave such a picture of the debtors’ prison of those days that people were made to think seriously of the futility and cruelty of the system of imprisoning people for debt. Eventually the law was altered, imprisonment for debt abolished in England.
In Nicholas Nickleby Dickens attacked some of the thoroughly rotten private schools of his time. Dickens’s chief weapon in his fights against public abuses was humour Ì¶ a far more effective weapon than fiery denunciation. As he had made a laughing-stock of workhouse officialdom in the absurd figure of Mr. Bumble, so he held up to ridicule the inefficient school master in the person of the absursd, ignorant and tyrannical Mr. Squeers, headmaster of Dotheboys Hall. No doubt his picture had its effect in bringing in a better system of education. A novel that had a lot to do in rousing public opinion in America against slavery was Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s well known Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This came out in 1852, and made a great stir. Mention may also be made of Charles Reade’s novel, Never too late to Mend, which exposed the bad state of the prisons in England and Australia. Literature also raises issues which society finds hard to discuss openly. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, D H Lawrence’s work such as Lady Chetelier’s Lover was much criticised; perceived as vulgar and lewd and yet by the latter part of the century, he was hailed as a literary master. I enjoy the critical analysis that is involved in studying literature. Animal Farm is a good example of a book that can be read as an enjoyable children’s book or a political satire on Russian communism.
Good historical novels allow us to relive major events that affected our forefathers and in turn affect us and the way we live today. In my Master’s I got the chance to study the work of Samuel Beckett and the theatre of absurd in detail. I am fascinated with the way Beckett explores the relationship between language and thought. It is interesting how he allows us to glean the workings of an individual’s mind. Waiting for Godot also highlights his ability to use humour. Having read the book, I enjoyed seen it staged in Islamabad. The production did well at accentuating the comical aspects of Beckett’s work. Trips to the theatre are always a special treat and something I try to do as much as possible. My developing fascination with Beckett, has led me to write my final dissertation on the major influences on his writing. I am particularly interested in the way he borrows from canonical writers like Dante to create new forms. The relationship between the exterior and the interior is a theme that fascinates me. I thoroughly enjoyed delving into this topic in my study of Shakespeare and exploring the ways that beautiful, flawed women are depicted through characters such as Chaucer’s May in The Merchant’s Tale and Thackeray’s Becky Sharp. I find Catherine Earnshaw an interesting character for the way that her beauty seems, paradoxically, to both empower and entrap her.
I believe that poetry is the noblest form of speech; and to learn to appreciate great poetry is in itself a liberal education. As the poet Coleridge said, Poetry is the best words in the best order. My English Literature presentations were enormously liked and appreciated by the students and teachers. I worked as an Assistant Editor for the Islamic Studies Journal which is an internationally recognized scholarly journal. Studying English Literature in my under graduation as well as post-graduation helped me to be analytical and be able to argue in a balanced way and draw pertinent conclusions. These are useful skills when I write and edit others’ writing. I use some of my free time to assist in junior English classes. It is rewarding to be able to help children who find this subject difficult. After graduating from Sussex, I am hoping to work in some context which involves maintaining my interest in literature. Ideally, I would like to be a literary agent and have the opportunity to both discover and also bring to the public interesting literature. I tutor English students in my free time and that has improved my ability to formulate and express ideas clearly. It helped to develop my skills in teaching and, more significantly, opened my eyes to the importance of learning from others. I hope to take the rewarding experience of teaching and learning further by continuing my studies at a postgraduate level and possibly pursuing a career in academia. Most of all, however, I want to study English for the incomparable sense of excitement I feel at opening a book, and it is this passion that I believe will help me to grow as a critic and a writer.
I believe I have the right attitude to study English at Sussex University as I am passionate about reading and always challenge myself in my work. My determination would also assist me in my studies, while helping me overcome any difficulties faced. Above all, the chance to read great literature, under professional guidance, presents itself as an experience I am eager to approach with commitment and enthusiasm.