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Glendon Spanish Professor Receives Top Honour from Government of Spain

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Glendon Hispanic Studies professor Esther Raventós-Pons received one of the highest recognitions offered by the government of Spain, as she was named Comendadora de la Orden del Mérito Civil by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an honour similar to this country’s membership in the Order of Canada. At a formal ceremony in Ottawa on September 26th, Raventós-Pons and six other individuals active in academic life were decorated with the Orden’s beautiful gold-and-enamel medal by Spanish ambassador Mariano Alonso Burón, who emphasized her pivotal role in bringing a better, more comprehensive understanding of Spanish culture to Canada.

Right: Spanish ambassador to Canada Mariano Alonso Burón gives the award to professor Esther Raventós-Pons

A member of Glendon’s teaching faculty since 2000, Raventós-Pons is a specialist in contemporary Spanish literature, with wide-ranging additional interdisciplinary interests, including Latin-American literature, Catalan language and literature, women’s literature and the visual arts.

Her award is a formal recognition by the Spanish government of her accomplishments in promoting the Spanish language and culture in Canada through the creation of various cultural events, welcoming prominent artists and academic personalities to this country. Raventós-Pons’ role in developing academic programs in the field of Hispanic Studies in Canada, and her contributions to learned publications were also acknowledged by this award.

Rosa Garrido, professor of Hispanic Studies at Trent University and Raventós-Pons’ department head during her tenure there (1994-1996), introduced her at the award ceremony and summarized her outstanding accomplishments (for details, please see the section below, with the title More about Esther Raventós-Pons). Garrido, whom Raventós-Pons acknowledged as her role model and mentor, praised her academic achievements, her collaborative approach to teaching, her energy in bringing enhancements to the Hispanic Studies experience of her students, and her dedication to Spanish art and culture.

Raventós-Pons and the representatives of the government of Spain in Canada have a long-standing history of cooperation and collaboration. She has acted as liaison for arranging cultural and literary events coming to Canada from Spain on numerous occasions. During her term as Chair of Glendon’s Hispanic Studies Department (2004-2008), Raventós-Pons was working closely with the embassy’s staff and the ambassador himself to widen the program’s scope and activities. An important result was the appointment of a lector/ teaching assistant, jointly funded by the College and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His focus is the support of Glendon’s Spanish language teaching, participation in developing new programs, and liaison with students in the Department. Currently, this lector is also participating in developing a PhD program in Hispanic Studies, to be launched at Glendon in the near future. “The constant strong support of my colleagues and, in particular, Glendon’s principal [Kenneth McRoberts] has been invaluable in my efforts to develop this program”, said Raventós-Pons.

“In the wider field of the cultural life of Toronto, professor Raventós-Pons has been acting as an honorary cultural attaché to promote literary and artistic exchanges between Canada and Spain”, proclaimed Garrido. “Canadian and Spanish artists have entered into very productive collaborations thanks to her contacts with Toronto and Barcelona art galleries. The fact that a prestigious Catalan art gallery: Contrast, was present at this year’s Toronto Art Fair is also due to her good offices. But she has gone much further by also spreading awareness of Canadian art and artists in Spain, including the work of visual artist [and York University graduate, BFA 1977] Shelagh Keeley.”

Right: The medal of the Orden del Mérito Civil

There was an additional, significant Glendon connection to the award ceremony on September 26th, as the invited keynote speaker was Guillaume Bernardi, professor in Glendon’s Drama Studies program and a respected stage director. In his address, Bernardi compared various versions of Don Juan, starting with the first one, "El Burlador de Sevilla" of Tirso de Molina, in early 17th century, then examining Molière’s Dom Juan, first performed in 1665, and concluding with The Joker of Seville, the iconoclastic 1978 version by the Caribbean poet and Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott.

“I was completely taken by surprise when I learned of the award”, recalled Raventós-Pons, “and I consider it a great honour. When the ambassador called me personally to congratulate me, I was deeply moved; but it was during the award ceremony itself that it became real for me. Receiving one of Spain’s highest honours has been among the most exciting experiences of my professional career. I want to emphasize that the award acknowledges not only my contribution, but also recognizes the ongoing support of my work by Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts and my colleagues of the Hispanic Studies Department. That is what makes it possible to bring ever-increasing exposure and awareness of Spanish culture to Glendon, to York University, and to Canada as a whole.”

Left: Guillaume Bernardi gives keynote lecture at the award ceremony

Raventós-Pons’ current research focuses on the growing interest in the body within contemporary scholarship and in society at large - what Spanish art historian Pedro A. Cruz Sánchez calls the ‘ubiquity of the body’. “The aim of my research project is to underscore the significant role that the body plays in Spanish women’s photography and in fiction,” said Raventós-Pons. “Yet, despite this increasing interest [with the body] in Spanish literary and art criticism, there is a marked lack of information about the work done by Spanish women visual artists, particularly female photographers.” She plans to publish a book based on the results of her research, highlighting the importance of photography and of women’s presence in contemporary Spain and in Spanish cultural life.

Raventós-Pons is also participating in another exciting project, an innovative collaboration between Glendon’s Hispanic Studies and Drama Studies Departments. A new fourth-year course is being developed by Raventós-Pons and Guillaume Bernardi, with the intriguing title Spanish and Latin American Theatre: From Drama to Performance (Teatro español y latinoamericano: del drama a la actuación). The first semester, taught by Raventós-Pons, will focus on the literature of the Siglo de Oro – the Golden Age of Spanish literature during the 16th-17th centuries. The course’s second semester will consist of the actual production of a play from that period, under the direction of Bernardi.


More about Esther Raventós-Pons

Esther Raventós-Pons, who is proficient in English, Spanish, Catalan and French, received her B.A. (1992), M.A. (1993), and Ph.D. (1999) from the University of Toronto, specializing in Contemporary Peninsular Spanish Literature. In addition, she holds a Diploma in Visual Arts from the Escuela de Artes Aplicadas y Oficios Artísticos of Barcelona, Spain and pursued further studies in the Musée du Louvre (France) and the Museo del Prado (Spain). She has taught at several Canadian universities, notably at the University of Toronto (1992-94), at Trent University, Peterborough, Ont. (1994-1996), at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont. (1996-1997), and at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ont. (1996-2000). She has been teaching at Glendon College, York University, initially as assistant professor (2000-04) and subsequently as associate professor (2004 to the present) in the Hispanic Studies Department.

Esther Raventós-Pons' research and teaching interest are interdisciplinary and include contemporary Hispanic literature, art, women's literature and critical theory. She has a large body of publications in her field of specialization, including several books, articles in learned journals - dealing with contemporary literature and art, and academic papers delivered at national and international conferences. Her highly-regarded book, Rupturas Espaciales : Palabra e Imagen en Textos Catalanes Postfranquistas combines her double expertise in visual arts and literature. She has published numerous articles in literary magazines and has contributed chapters to books in her fields of expertise.

Professor Raventós-Pons has been a guest speaker in eight universities, has presented more than thirty learned lectures at symposia and academic conferences in Canada, USA, Latin-America, Europe and Pakistan.

In September 2007, Prof. Raventós was awarded the Encomienda de la Orden del Merito Civil by His Majesty, King Juan Carlos I, in recognition of her services to the Spanish Nation. The Encomienda de la Orden del Merito Civil is the Spanish equivalent of the British distinction of Commander of the British Empire. Those named Comendador include generals, top civic servants, and magistrates of the Spanish government. It is also awarded to Spanish and foreign citizens residing abroad, who have reach positions of significant responsibility in those countries and have also distinguished themselves by providing exceptional services to Spain.

Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on October 30, 2008