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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

July 10, 2003
 Personal View

Did you hear the one about…?
Revisiting urban legends


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 field.

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.




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Next issue: July 24, 2003

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