Readers go beyond the dream with Glendon’s Catalan professor

Professor Shaudin Melgar-Foraster brings something unique to Glendon’s Department of Hispanic Studies where, in addition to Spanish language courses, she also teaches courses on Catalan language, culture, literature and history.

Melgar-Foraster is currently in the midst of a major project. She is writing a series of four novels in Catalan. The first volume, Més enllà del somni (Edicions del Bullent), was published in 2008 and its English translation, Beyond the Dream (Trafford), was published in 2009. The second volume, Perduts a l’altre món (Lost in the Other World), is forthcoming.

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 and completed my first book at the age of 12,” she says. “More than a pastime, writing has been an ongoing need that I have to fulfill.” She is also the author of several short stories in Catalan, and in 1991, she won an award for short stories at a symposium of Hispanic-Canadian women writers.

The characters and premise for Beyond the Dream came to Melgar-Foraster in 2005, in a series of dreams. It’s a magical, multi-dimensional 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, including a cruel lord and an insomniac army chief who can only be lulled to sleep as by the stories of a young slave named Tam. There are also warriors, young lovers and a lot of dangerous adventures. The central Canadian character, a young girl named Anna whose family comes from Barcelona, and some of her friends pass back and forth between the two worlds through a crack in a mirror. The imagined world comes complete with maps, languages and a complex social structure.

Right: Shaudin Melgar-Foraster

But Beyond the Dream is much more than an adventure story. It acquaints its readers, young or mature, with socio-political ideas, such as the notions of power, dictatorship, democracy, immigration, matriarchy, colonialism and imperialism, all within the framework of fantasy. In the other world, as Catalan is the common language, readers have an opportunity to learn about its existence as a language and a culture.

Born in Barcelona, Spain, Melgar-Foraster says her first memories of stories were those 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”.

In addition to her passion for writing, Melgar-Foraster is also passionate about teaching the Catalan language and culture. “Studying Catalan makes eminent sense, because it is a romance language spoken by 13 million people – seven million in Catalonia and an additional six 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. Catalonia’s history within Spain has parallels with Quebec’s history within Canada, where a culturally oppressed minority 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 one of the few university settings in Canada where this language and literature were taught,” she says.

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. 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.

“Glendon is a wonderful place to study and to teach. It’s a warm, friendly and beautiful environment for learning,” says Melgar-Foraster. Close to 200 universities in many parts of the world teach the Catalan language and culture today.

Submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny