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Project addresses ideas of beauty

Catherine Owers | Friday, February 8, 2013

 

The Identity Project of Notre Dame will address contemporary conceptualizations of beauty at this weekend’s Edith Stein Project Conference.

Senior co-chair Samantha Stempky said the organizers discussed beauty as a broad concept and acknowledged “beautiful” is used to describe many different kinds of women. They chose “Modern Beauty: Unveiling the Mystery” as the conference’s theme.

Stempky said the conference, which takes place today and Saturday, asks what it means to be beautiful.

“No wonder we’re striving for this [idea of beauty] and never feel fulfilled, because nobody can be both Mother Teresa and Marilyn Monroe,” she said.

Approximately 15 students, professors and professionals will present papers they submitted to the conference Saturday morning, senior co-chair Margaret Kennedy said.

“That’s really cool because this is a full-scale academic conference, and yet students are able to participate,” she said. “[The papers] will be related to the conference theme in some way, from ‘a woman’s pursuit of beauty’ to more philosophical perspectives.”

Kennedy said approximately 25 speakers from a variety of backgrounds will also speak at the conference, from magazine editors to professors from other universities.

“Most of the people coming to the conference have a Christian background, but they’re not all religious talks,” Kennedy said. “They’re meant to be talks that deal with a combination of the academic side and the personal side.”

Professors of theology Tim O’Malley and Fr. Michael Heintz will be among the presenters.

The conference is about femininity, but these issues are relevant to men as well as women, Stempky said.

Kennedy said although the conference originated to address feminine issues, men can also appreciate the talks.

“As the conference expanded, we have as many sessions that deal with issues related to men as related to women,” Kennedy said. “That creates a really unique atmosphere where there’s this open engagement from both men and women.”

The conference aims to generate discussion about the complex topic of beauty, Kennedy said.

Stempky said although the conference will not concretely answer “What is beauty?,” it will give people tools to explore that question in their own lives.

“It’s not like we have all the answers,” she said. “It’s more, ‘Here are some different aspects of this issue.’ It’s more to prompt your own thinking and reflection.”

Stempky said the conference benefits from being hosted at the University.

“It has this academic element, as well as the personal, contemporary element,” she said. “The place where I think those two things meet best is at Notre Dame.”