On Being a Student – Again


Confession time: I am a student again. I am studying a Masters in screenwriting in IADT in Dun Laoghaire. It is a demanding course with full time lectures on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the week you are meant to spend in the library. Of course as a mature student I spent the rest of the time doing the things I have to do; look for business, pitch writing gigs, do writing gigs, look after my kids, mind house, cook the odd dinner, sing with my choir, preside over my alma mater, learn to run and plan world domination. And that is only on Wednesday.

It is a wonderful thing being a student again. It is a long time since I was a student and while it is different as a mature student, it is still wonderful. The biggest surprise is how much I don’t know. That sounds a bit foolish but life after university is often an exercise in using limited knowledge to navigate difficult tasks. The older you get, the better you get at navigation. But when you go back to college, the world sense you may have gained does not always parlay into expert navigation. For example I give you Aristotle’s Poetics. The title enough should tell you all you need to know. I dallied along in the shallows of the lectures letting the warm breeze wash over me, but when it came to actually penning an essay in the subject I almost overturned my little craft to be shipwrecked on the first outcrop of rock. I pulled out my hair, I gnashed my teeth and foamed a little at the mouth. And then, procrastination over, I wrote the damn thing. What an achievement (although I am waiting on the mark to see how much of an achievement it might actually be).

Today is also the deadline for the first draft of our screenplay. Collectively the 14 students on the course have pulled out enough hair for several wigs, gnashed enough teeth to impress even Dennis the Menace (of Beano fame) and foamed like a gossip of madmen. But today we have all handed in an approximation of our story – forged in the fires of catharsis, hammered in the clause of necessity, written in the genre of students and here’s the thing, it’s all sequence driven.

And the title of my screenplay – Mortar Life – say it out loud and you’ll understand the pun.



So, first drafts in, we can relax before we start the next big thing but in the interim, I feel obligated (as our American friends would consonant) to share with you some of my recent learning on The Poetics and shall let you (irrespective of nationality and seamanship) be the judge of my navigation.


Mimesis according to Aristotle is the representation of world-like artistic activities through the media of poetry, music, visual art, vocal mimesis and dance. In his view mimetic works communicate intelligent images of what is reasonable, of what might prove to be a ‘possible world’.  Aristotle spells this out very clearly when he compares poetry with history. Poetry is much more philosophical and higher thinking than mere history. History, even when expressed in verse, is still history.  The state of the world when expressed in mimetic art is not constant, and indeed can make three things the subject of its mimesis.  Aristotle lists the three subjects as ‘the sorts of things that were or are the case, the sorts of things people say and think to be the case, or the sorts of things that should be the case’ [1]

Using these lists, and oddly and more recently reflective of Rumsfeld’s famous ‘known unknowns’[2] statement on Iraq in 2002, it is possible to see how Aristotle views the relationship between the world within the work and the world of the artist or audience as variable and potentially complex, with the range spanning ‘a spectrum that runs from the true to the fictional, from the close reflection of known reality to the representation of the purely imaginary.

 So there you have it!

[1] – Poet 24.1460b10-11 Since Aristotle says the poet or painter must depict one of these three things ‘at any one time’ he allows for combinations of shifts between the three within individual works.

[2] Donald Rumsfeld, Washington, 2002


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Journalist, Broadcaster, Writer, Speaker, Law Changer, Dreamer

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