Mark Morris, BA, MA, PhD

Full Lecturer, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept


Full Lecturer, Faculty of Arts - English & Film Studies Dept



Mark Morris is a writer, award-winning librettist, music critic, theatre director, broadcaster, curator, and photographer, and has been teaching at the University of Alberta since 2000. He received his BA and MA from the University of Oxford, and completed the first ever Creative Writing PhD in English in Canada, at the University of Calgary, in 1996. He has taught at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Banff Centre, the University of Calgary, and Concordia University College of Alberta, as well as at the University of Alberta, where he has received a Faculty of Arts Teaching Award. He has also done many projects with schools in Alberta. He is the classical music critic for the Edmonton Journal.

He has now written some 13 operas and very many concert works, with six different composers, which have been performed in Canada, the U.S.A., Ireland, England, Wales, Mexico, Sweden, and South Africa, and many of which have been broadcast. Some of those operas have been for the combination of children and adult performers and audiences, which have been seen in venues from the Royal Albert Hall (in the Children’s Proms) to Mexico’s main new music festival. Writing operas for children and adults resulted in a series of collaborations with the Welsh composer Mervyn Burch, MBE, for a company they helped set up, KidsOp. His most recent KidsOp opera was a collaboration with a young Canadian composer, Samantha Semler (then a student at the University of Alberta) - a short, site-specific opera performed at Edmonton Opera's Opera al fresco at the Devonian Gardens.

As a photographer, he did a major project for the University of Alberta’s 100th Anniversary (during which he was Visiting-Scholar-in-Residence in the Faculty of Arts), which was exhibited in Edmonton and Vancouver.

He has written a major work on 20th-Century classical composers, the Guide to 20th-Century Composers, published by Methuen and Pimlico (as The Dictionary of 20th-Century Composers), which Damian Thompson, writing in The Spectator in October 2014, described as “one of four indispensable surveys of the music of the last century.”

His book Domesday Revisited (Severn House) was a kind of historical travel-book describing the change from Saxon to Norman England through the places one can still visit to see the residue of that process, and was an Historical Book Club Choice.

In the theatre, he has directed plays by Auden and Isherwood, Shakespeare, Becket, Feydeau, Marowitz, and Vaclav Havel. He has also designed both theatre and opera productions.

Among his academic specialities – besides creative writing, especially creative non-fiction - are children’s literature, the literature of India in English, Shakespeare (he is one of the 'notable signatories' of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition) and the writings of Lawrence Durrell, with a concentration on his plays and where they intersect with music. He is also particularly interested in the social and political history of the Western, and has taught the Western as film and as novel.

In 2012 he gave a major paper in London, UK, on opera and Durrell's plays for the International Lawrence Durrell Society’s conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of Durrell’s birth, and he was a member of the Advisory Board of the Durrell School of Corfu until its closure in 2014. His recent publications include a review of the British edition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's biography Common Ground for the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), April 6, 2018, and a chapter on operas by Loder and Puccini for The Creation of Giselle (ed. Stovel, N., University of Alberta Press, 2019).

He has broadcast regularly on CBC, notably a long series of intermission talks for Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.

He is the Literary Executor of the estate of his father, the writer Jan Morris.

A native of Wales, he has been living in Canada since 1987, and his main residence is one of the oldest houses in Alberta, The George Root House near Wetaskiwin, built in 1905 and now a Provincial Historic Resource.


Mark Morris' main area of research is into the cultural and literary context of classical music and opera, and is writing a book of memoirs.


Main teaching areas:

Creative Writing (non-fiction), including Cultural Journalism (

Children's Literature


First-Year English

The Western

His teaching philosophy follows that of Quintillian, who believed in “The educated citizen with a cultivated mind, a command of language, and a sense of public responsibility.”


ENGL 103 - Case Studies in Research

This variable content course introduces methods of literary research as an in-depth process through one or more case studies. Not to be taken by students with *6 in approved junior English. This course can only be taken once for credit. Note: refer to the Class Schedule and the Department of English and Film Studies website for specific topics.

ENGL 199 - English for Engineering Students

This course aims to develop the student's ability to provide effective written and oral information. It will focus on instruction in fundamental writing skills, including building effective sentences and paragraphs, and on learning to communicate clearly across a range of genres and media used in academic and professional contexts, including correspondence and presentations. Students will be introduced to the principles of information gathering, analysis, and citation. Note: Restricted to students in the Faculty of Engineering only.

WRITE 297 - Introduction to Writing Nonfiction

To increase the student's ability to write clear nonfiction prose. Models of prose style are central, combined with frequent practice in writing on the basis of such models. Prerequisite: *3 of junior English (or equivalent). Not to be taken by students with credit in WRITE 298.

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