Glendon Spanish professor receives top honour from Spain

For her pivotal role in bringing a better, more comprehensive understanding of Spanish culture to Canada, Glendon Hispanic Studies Professor Esther Raventós-Pons has been named Comendadora de la Orden del Mérito Civil by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the highest recognitions given by the government of Spain and similar to this country’s Order of Canada.

At a formal ceremony in Ottawa on Sept. 26, Raventós-Pons and six other individuals active in academic life were decorated with the Orden’s gold and enamel medal by Spanish Ambassador Mariano Alonso Burón.

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 recognition by the Spanish government of her accomplishments in promoting Spanish language and culture in Canada through the creation of various cultural events that welcome 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.

Left: The Comendadora de la Orden del Mérito Civil medal

Rosa Garrido, professor of Hispanic Studies at Trent University and Raventós-Pons’ department head during her tenure at Trent from 1994 to 1996, introduced Raventós-Pons at the award ceremony and summarized her outstanding accomplishments. Garrido, a role model and mentor to Raventós-Pons, 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 government of Spain’s representatives in Canada have a long-standing history of cooperation and collaboration. Raventós-Pons has often acted as a liaison for arranging cultural and literary events coming to Canada from Spain. During her term as chair of Glendon’s Department of Hispanic Studies, from 2004 to 2008, Raventós-Pons was working closely with embassy staff and the ambassador to widen the program’s scope and activities.

Right: The Comendadora de la Orden del Mérito Civil

“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,” said 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 Shelagh Keeley [BFA ’77].”

As a result of Raventós-Pons’ efforts, a lector/teaching assistant was appointed, jointly funded by Glendon and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to support Glendon’s Spanish language teaching, participate in developing new programs and liaise with students in the department. This person is also helping to develop a PhD program in Hispanic Studies to be launched soon at Glendon.

Receiving one of Spain’s highest honours has been among the most exciting experiences of my professional career,” said Raventós-Pons. “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 the keynote address 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. 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 an innovative collaboration between Glendon’s Hispanic Studies and Drama Studies departments. A new fourth-year course is being developed by Raventós-Pons and Glendon drama studies Professor Guillaume Bernardi, titled Spanish and Latin American Theatre: From Drama to Performance. Bernardi, a respected stage director, delivered the keynote speech at the award ceremony.   

Right: Esther Raventós-Pons

Raventós-Pons, proficient in English, Spanish, Catalan and French, received her BA (’92), MA (’93) and PhD (’99) 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 at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France, and the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. She has taught at several Canadian universities, including York since 2000.

Raventós-Pons’ research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary and include contemporary Hispanic literature, art, women’s literature and critical theory. She has a large body of publications in her field and is the author of Rupturas Espaciales : Palabra e Imagen en Textos Catalanes Postfranquistas.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny