Student View

(June 19, 1997, Gazette)

Living among the Learned people

By Kathleen Lippa

The crowd of delegates from the Congress of Learned Societies that descended on Memorial's campus for two weeks recently reminded me of scenes from my recent trip to Boston, Mass., especially the most hectic moments on the public transportation system there. The crowds were diverse, conversation was vigorous, and fashion crimes were being committed at every turn. But I loved the Learneds delegates more than I ever could the subway passengers of Boston. For inquiring Learneds delegates I was willing to find every iceberg and whale in the sea -- I couldn't stand seeing a Learned person looking confused. And I really miss the Learneds now that it's gone.

On my first day at the conference, I had to elbow my way through the Student Centre, surrounded by manes of frizzy white hair, while trying to avoid bumping into people talking on cellular phones who were obstructing familiar routes. The Thematic Guide to conference highlights was my road map to all the intellectual stimulation I could possibly want. But at one point I found myself staring blankly at the lights above Dairy Queen because I couldn't decide where to go.

Eventually, I ended up at a lecture given by the Canadian Society for Aesthetics, where a woman named Kathleen Batstone presented a paper about food preparation as an art form. Once she was through, there was no shortage of witty, or out-in-left-field comments from the audience.

"When I see a meal, say at a restaurant, taken to its highest level, I find it offensive...there's something vulgar about it," said a visiting professor who had listened intently to Ms. Batstone. "Yet, a great piece of art, say a painting, taken to its highest level, doesn't strike me that way."

Izida Zorde, an undergraduate from the University of Winnipeg, spoke about Women in Popular Culture -- specifically, images in women's fashion magazines. Her observations were keen, and members of the mostly female audience had plenty of personal stories to share about the pressures placed on them by images of ultra-thin models. But, having consumed hundreds of issues of Cosmopolitian and Vogue before I was old enough to know what liposuction meant, there wasn't a commercial or terribly thin model Ms. Zorde flashed on the overhead projector that I hadn't seen before. And I have to admit, I'd been to so many lectures that week that if remarks didn't blow me away completely, I was bored.

Meanwhile, I'm still recovering from the public lecture Rex Murphy gave at the Reid Theatre during the conference. And to top it off, I just happened to meet him at the President's Reception afterwards. I'd interviewed him for a Gazette column last semester, and when he saw me, he shook my hand and said he liked the article. I said "Whatever!" but he told me never to be shy about what I write. (I was reduced to smiling and nodding a lot by now because my ability to form sentences had deserted me after we shook hands.)

Anyway, as I mingled with professors from places like the University of British Columbia, and said "Don't mind if I do" to fancy hors d'oeuvres, I kept wondering, "Who's life is this?"

Kathleen Lippa is a fourth-year student from St. John's who is majoring in Russian and English at Memorial. She hopes the Learneds will visit again real soon.