By Kristin Harris
Snakes hatching in a bouffant hairdo, exploding toilets, rats
deep-fried and sold as chicken … not exactly the stuff
of a typical academic conference. But the International Society
for Contemporary Legend Research, or ISCLR, is far from typical.
ISCLR recently held its annual meeting and conference at Memorial’s
Sir Wilfred Grenfell campus in Corner Brook from June 25-28.
A particularly large cohort of graduate students and faculty
from Memorial’s Department of Folklore were able to
attend, many of us travelling road trip style, and camping
out in the spacious new chalet-style apartments on the SWGC
campus. While many faculty stayed at the lovely conference
hotel, the Glynmill Inn, they definitely missed out on the
communal experience shared by many who stayed on campus, and
were able to appreciate first-hand the great work of the conference
office at SWGC.
What is particularly interesting about ISCLR as an association
is that, while fairly small in membership, it contains many
of the leading established and emerging scholars in contemporary
legend research. As such, relatively newbie folklorists (such
as myself) were able to put faces to names, while sharing
panels and conversations with prominent folklorists in the
Papers covered all areas of contemporary and urban legend
research, such as campus legends, anti-American legends, legend
as a marketing tool, e-mail hoaxes, legend in film and narratives
of the Washington sniper shootings, and were often met with
lively debates following each session. As is often the case
with conferences, the most in-depth and stimulating discussions
took place over long dinners, after-session walks, with glasses
of wine and into the wee hours of the night.
ISCLR is a fairly social group as well, and we were well hosted
by conference chair Dr. John Ashton and SWGC, who provided
a lovely wine and cheese reception and gallery exhibit in
the Fine Arts building. There was also a lobster dinner at
the Blomidon Golf and Country Club and a day tour of Gros
Morne, of special interest to those from out of province and
out of country. Dr. Ashton comments, “we’ve had
nothing but positive feedback from the Canadian, American
and European scholars who joined us for the occasion.”
We’re already counting the days until ISCLR’s
2004 meeting at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Kristin Harris is a SPARK Correspondent and doctoral student
in folklore with an abiding interest in weird stories.