Professor Emeritus Peter Morris, a pioneer in the field of Canadian film studies, passed away on February 2 after a brief battle with cancer.
Prof. Morris joined York’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1988 as a professor in the Department of Film, where he taught in the undergraduate and graduate programs until his retirement in 2002. He also taught in York’s Graduate Program in Communications & Culture.
Alongside his contributions in the classroom, Prof. Morris was an able academic administrator, serving as director of the Graduate Program in Film (1991-1994), chair of the Department of Film (1993-1996) and coordinator of the interdisciplinary Fine Arts Cultural Studies Program (1999 to 2003) in the Faculty of Fine Arts.
Colleagues describe him as being a passionate and dedicated teacher who was committed to advancing the understanding, teaching, preservation and appreciation of Canadian cinema history.
“In 1967, the warehouse containing the original prints of Canada’s historic films burned down. Peter was hired by the National Archives to rebuild that collection,” recalled film Professor Seth Feldman, a close friend of Prof. Morris. “In the process, he not only put together a better collection – one that was properly catalogued and accessible – but he also convinced the National Archives that its film collection was as important as any of the other collections it held.
“Peter was a thoughtful, humane, pragmatic and innovative administrator,” said Feldman. “After serving a term as chair of York’s Department of Film, he was persuaded to stay on as acting chair for another year, then another, and then the year after that. When the department was too embarrassed to ask for yet another year as acting chair, he took a sabbatical and then came back to head up the Fine Arts Cultural Studies Program. He built that small entity into a virtual department.”
In addition to his teaching and administrative prowess, Prof. Morris was a prolific author. Among his many publications are the books Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1885-1939(1978, reprinted in 1992), The Film Companion (1984) and David Cronenberg: A Delicate Balance(1994). He served as editor and translator of Georges Sadoul’s 1972 Dictionary of Films andDictionary of Film Makers, and published numerous articles and monographs on Canadian and international film.
Prof. Morris was the founding curator of the Canadian Film Archives in Ottawa and the founding president of the Film Studies Association of Canada (a division of the Canadian Film Institute). From 1989 to 1993, he was editor of the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, a publication of the Film Studies Association of Canada and the country’s leading academic peer-reviewed journal in the field.
Prof. Morris leaves his wife Louise Dompierre, three children and six grandchildren.
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