Classics: Example Personal Statement

 Classical literature has preserved the history and society of the world that they have come from. Most notably, the connection between drama and society is what I find most intriguing. From Aristophanes’ Lysistrata which seems to serve as a criticism of the ongoing Peloponnesian War, to Homer’s Iliad, which portrays conventional ideas of masculinity and heroism. 

The recent revival and reception of Greek Theatre shown in The National Theatre’s production of “Medea”, as well as The Barbican’s production of “Antigone”, for me, shows the approachability of this subject. Having written an undergraduate level essay with The Brilliant Club, in which I gained a First and explored how Shakespearean plays have been translated into film, I have identified that it is the message that the playwright is trying to convey that enables a work to become timeless. This seems to be true for Greek Tragedy, as it is its articulation of fundamental themes that are still key to our societies, such as relationships and human suffering, that enables it to transcend both cultural and temporal boundaries. For example, Euripides’ focus on the victims, rather than the victors in “Trojan Women”, gives a poignant insight into the aftermath of war and the way in which it affects communities.

 I am interested in the way gender is portrayed in classical literature – particularly Greek Tragedy’s strong feminine element. Attending lectures delivered by Professor Edith Hall that focused on women in tragedy, as well as lectures by Dr Felix Budelmann at the Oxford Pathways Study Day, which compared the works of the female poet Sappho and the male poet Anacreon, stimulated my love for this area. Of particular interest was the enigmatic life that Sappho is said to have lived which the documentary “Sappho: Love & Life on Lesbos”, heavily discusses, as well as differences between the ancient Greek concept of homosexuality and our own.

 By studying a non-classical subject such as English Literature, I can see how the ancient world is interwoven into contemporary literature, from Shakespeare to F Scott Fitzgerald. Studying postcolonial literature at A level and coming from a Nigerian background, it is clear to see the influence of Classics, especially in the reworking of classical literature by Afro-Caribbean writers. This is exhibited in Wole Soyinka’s interpretation of “The Bacchae”, which incorporates African oral traditions, as well as having a second chorus of slaves to mirror the civil unrest in Nigeria. I find this particularly interesting as it shows the reception of Classics in the non-Western world. 

Having the opportunity to study a complex and unique language like Mandarin Chinese for 7 years has allowed me to travel to China and perform traditional songs at the Confucius Institute. It has also shown me how important the language is in understanding a country’s history, and that a language cannot be learned in isolation. Travelling to Harbin, and attending daily language lessons was a challenging experience, especially being in an environment where my language proficiency was frequently tested. Experiencing China’s distinctive lifestyle has given me a strong appreciation of another country’s culture, which I think is essential in studying a language, as well as the ancient world. I hope my scoring 100% in my Mandarin and Spanish GCSE papers sufficiently demonstrates my ability to grasp languages. Also, studying Latin for a year, as well as having beginners Ancient Greek lessons at the Wadham Classics Summer School, shows my passion to study the ancient languages. 
Outside the classroom, I enjoy participating in different sports such as netball, yoga and Chinese martial arts. Balancing my work in school as a language and student council prefect, as well as working part-time, has greatly improved my organisational skills, as well as teaching me how to properly arrange my time. I look forward to applying these skills at university.