Essay Writing – Hanley Style

I’ve an essay due for next Monday (today is Tuesday) as part of the one module I did this semester, Irish Cinema: History, Contexts, Aesthetics, taught by Dr Barry Monahan. My decision to only do one, as opposed to two modules, was ostensibly to focus on a paper I delivered at the IAAS Postgrad Symposium, which took place on November 28th last. But also, because of my peevishness at the thought of slogging through the Gender and Sexuality module which was the only proffered alternative. I’ll be taking a module on Modernism in January instead, on top of the two modules which I’m due to take as part of the course anyway. It will be a busy new year in other words. I should be hitting my straps by then. Workload be damned. On a separate note, I use the word ‘which’ quite a lot don’t I?

I’m currently reading Tim Robinson’s Connemara books, specifically the parts which deal with the kelp industry as it evolved throughout the 20th century. Bear in mind my essay is on Irish Film. Being presented with that often repeated thought, ‘how-in-da-name-a-Jaysus did you get here Hanley?’, I thought maybe I’d use this blog to explain myself to myself. The happy upshot of which is that you can read it too, whoever you are.

Dr Monahan, being the kind, knowledgeable, and accommodating supervisor which he is  left it up to ourselves to come up with essay titles, whilst also giving us a list of titles (probably more pertinent to the course than anything we might conjure up). Being an obscurantist and contrarian, of course I decided to come up with my own title. It is an MA course after all, we should be carrying out independent self-led analysis, redefining the academic wheel at this stage of our lives, right? I’m being flippant here I know. We should be doing such work. The former, not so much the latter. Yet. Not that it’s a choice; leaves on the tree, scorpion and the cowboy, scorpion and the frog etc. (Sidebar: if parables and fables have taught us anything, it is that scorpions are the most unforgivable assholes in the animal/arachnid kingdom.)

Here’s a few emails I sent outlining my ideas:

Hi Barry,

Just a quick one re the essay titles for the MA.
I’ve two embryonic ideas which I think might be worth developing, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A look at the cinematography/mise en scene of I Went Down. Looking at the influence of nature documentary on De Buitleir’s style, and how in so doing a new representation of rural Ireland was created in Irish Cinema.
A look at Lenny Abrahamson’s “Prosperity”, an examination of the links between the televisual and the filmic. Maybe looking at Kieslowski as a precusor, and Soderbergh as a contemporary exponent.
Get back to me when you get a chance!

Do you ever look back on something you did in your past and shudder? These days I’m finding that the temporal distance between the act doing and the act of shudderance is becoming shorter and shorter…

And another:

Hi Barry,

For the essay… My initial idea of looking at Cian De Buitleir’s cinematography in light of his father’s work I realise now would involve a few days at NUIG in the De Buitleir archive there, which isn’t feasible unfortunately. Another idea I had was of doing something on Gerry Stembridge, specifically About Adam. My idea is to write an analysis of the film, which I’d then give to Gerry himself to debunk/agree with etc. And in so doing both comment on the film, but also on aurteurial intentionality/reception theory/hermeneutics of aesthetics. If that doesn’t sound too theoretical! As he’s the film maker in residence I think it’d be a unique opportunity. What do you think? On a basic level, is he available for such interaction with students?
Get back to me when you get a chance.
Turns out Gerry was out of town. My dreams of dazzling him with my insightful analysis will have to be put on hold. I do think it’s a cool thing that we have a director on campus. Saying that, I’m keenly aware of the possibility of coming across like a Rupert Pupkinesque weirdo however. Lookin’ good Gerry!  There’s better examples than that, just not on Youtube. You’ve probably seen it anyway.


 With the deadline fast approaching, I thought it best to fish out the list of essay titles and actually read through them.
‘Compare the representations of a single aspect of “irishness” (political, historical, literary, biographical etc.) in a number of American, British or Irish films from any period.’
Yeah, I could probably do something with that, right?
Smash cut to:
Break out the anthropology books which detail the vagaries of the kelp industry of rural Galway in the 19th Century!!
Even when I try, I can’t do anything straight forward. I don’t try very hard, admittedly. Better get back to my reading…
images (7)
Gerry Stembridge Film Artist in Residence – but not always! – in UCC

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