Monday, June 2, 2008

Overheard at the University of Ottawa's Canadian Literature Symposium

For three days in May the University of Ottawa hosted their annual Canadian literature symposium. This one focussed on The Postmodern. Featured speakers included Frank Davey, Linda Hutcheon, Robert Kroetsch, and Susan Rudy. I was there looking around, listening to presentations.

I've always liked the postmodern. Actually, as a kid, my parents threw me great postmodern birthday parties. I'd wake up the day of the party, and all the furniture would be gone from the house. Or, once, I rushed to the fridge to point to the calendar, showing my mother that it was the big day. They'd had a trick calendar printed; every day was April 1. It was June 12. "Here's your present," my father said. He handed me a carton of milk. I opened it and took a sip, spitting it out in the sink. I looked at the bottom; it'd expired in March. "April Fool's!"

Here are a few snippets of conversations that I overheard at the Ottawa conference:

Conversation 1:

Man 1: How were your courses this year?
Man 2: Good. I just got my evaluations back.
Man 1: And how were they?
Man 2: They said I was too boring.
Man 1: Why would they say that?
Man 2: I don't know. I brought in props.
Man 1: What'd you bring?
Man 2: My birth certificate, my driver's licence, my OHIP card--the one with the new picture on the front.
Man 1: That sounds like your wallet.
Man 2: ...
Man 1: What? What's wrong?
Man 2: Nothing. Nothing. I just realized why they kicked me out of the passport office.

Conversation 2:

Woman 1: What were you teaching this year?
Woman 2: Canadian Jewish Writers.
Woman 1: Oh, that sounds interesting. I've never heard of that being taught before.
Woman 2: I know. This was the first time.
Woman 1: So how did it go?
Woman 2: Great. We talked about everyone. We had a great time.
Woman 1: And then what?
Woman 2: Then a student pointed out that Robertson Davies wasn't Jewish. And Carol Shields. And Mavis Gallant. And all our best writers.
Woman 1: You thought they were Jewish?
Woman 2: Nope. He just thought that he'd point that out.

Conversation 3:

Woman 1: Have you seen Linda Hutcheon?
Man 1: Yes, just a second ago. Why?
Woman 1: Did you see what she's wearing?
Man 1: Yes. I thought it was nice. It doesn't match her skirt, though.
Woman 1: The Donna Karan jacket with the little loose thread running from the right pocket? The small tear in the lapel. The little white stain right around the waist.
Man 1: How do you know so much about it?
Woman 1: Because fifteen minutes ago I left it in the bathroom.

I had a great time.

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