Professor Shaudin Melgar-Foraster brings something unique to Glendon’s Hispanic Studies Department where, in addition to Spanish language courses, she also teaches a series of courses of Catalan language, as well as Catalan culture, literature and history.
“Studying Catalan makes eminent sense, because it is a romance language spoken by 13 million people: 7 million in Catalonia and an additional 6 million in Valencia, Andorra, the Balearic Islands and other locations. Catalan literature is among the best in the world and presents another point of view, represented by prominent writers and artists”, says Melgar-Foraster. An interesting Canadian perspective: Catalonia’s history within Spain has parallels with Quebec’s history within Canada – a minority that was culturally oppressed but has succeeded in maintaining its language and culture against significant odds.
“A close relative of Languedoc, Catalan works well within the Glendon context as a distinctive addition to the French and Spanish courses and, until 2007, it was the one of the few university settings in Canada where this language and literature were taught”, she explains.
Right: Shaudin Melgar-Foraster
Glendon’s Catalan offerings are financially supported by the Institut Ramon Llull, a consortium of the Government of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands dedicated to the international promotion of the Catalan language and culture. Dr. Melgar-Foraster has been a course director at Glendon for the past seven years, with previous teaching experience at McMaster University in Hamilton, and at the University of Toronto.
But there is another side to Melgar-Foraster’s activities: in addition to her teaching career, she is a published novelist and the author of several short stories in the Catalan language. Her work has garnered enthusiastic acclaim, as well as two literary awards.
Writing has been Melgar-Foraster’s greatest and most enduring passion from her earliest childhood. “I wrote my first stories when I was six years old”, she confides, “and completed my first book at the age of twelve. More than a pastime, writing has been an ongoing need that I have to fulfill.”
Born in Barcelona, Spain, her first encounters were the stories told by her grandparents, who had amazing and lovely tales to tell. “I loved those stories and I have always loved being around old people, who have such interesting stories to tell”.
Currently, Melgar-Foraster is in the midst of a major project: writing a series of four novels in Catalan, of which the first volume was published in 2008 to very favourable reviews, with the title Més enllà del somni (Edicions del Bullent). The work’s English translation was published in 2009 under the title Beyond the Dream (Trafford). Volume 2, with the title Perduts a l’altre món (Lost in the Other World), is already in progress.
Beyond the Dream’s seminal characters and premise came to Melgar-Foraster in 2005, in a series of dreams. It is a magical, multidimensional story of fantasy involving young people in present-day Toronto, as well as characters inhabiting another world in a distant time, where Catalan is the “Common Language”. A whole hierarchical society and several imaginary countries are introduced, with a cruel Lord, an insomniac Army Chief – who can only be lulled to sleep, as in the legend of Scheherezade, by the stories of a little slave called Tam; warriors, young lovers and lots of cliff-hangingly dangerous adventures. The central Canadian character, a young girl named Anna whose family comes from Barcelona, and some of her friends pass through a crack in a mirror back and forth between the two worlds. How they resolve their experiences and the problems they encounter must be discovered by readers of the book, who will find it irresistible – a sophisticated world complete with maps, languages and a complex social structure.
But Beyond the Dream is much more than an adventure story. It acquaints its readers – young or mature – with sociopolitical ideas: the notions of power, dictatorship, democracy, immigration, matriarchy, colonialism and imperialism, all within the framework of fantasy. In that other world also, since Catalan is the “Common Language”, readers have the opportunity to learn about its existence as a language and culture.
“Glendon is a wonderful place to study and to teach, a warm, friendly and beautiful environment for learning”, says Shaudin Melgar-Foraster.” The College offers unique courses and a direct connection with professors that is a great advantage for students. As for studying Catalan, close to 200 universities in many parts of the world teach this language and culture today. Students thus have opportunities for enriching exchanges in Barcelona and elsewhere and can experience its centuries of history and culture first-hand.”
More about Dr. Shaudin Melgar-Foraster
A native of Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain), Shaudin Melgar-Foraster has studied dance and archaeology, as well as teaching dance. After moving to Canada, she obtained a B.A., a Masters and a Ph.D, at the University of Toronto, specializing in Hispanic literature, literary criticism and theory.
Dr. Melgar-Foraster began teaching Catalan language and culture at the University of Toronto in 1995 and joined Glendon’s Department of Hispanic Studies in 2003.
As a writer, she has numerous short stories to her credit, both published and presented at various Canadian academic literary conferences. In 1991, she won the award for short stories at the Symposium of Hispanic-Canadian Women Writers.
Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny