Matthew Wayne Morris, Emory University professor emeritus of French, passed away January 16, 2014, after a long illness. Born Nov. 11, 1942, in the Cincinnati suburb of Newport, Ky., he grew up in Cartersville, Ga. He served four years in the U.S. Navy, including one year in Vietnam in 1967 and three years aboard the USS Sarsfield. He received his Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of Georgia in 1977 and began teaching at Oxford College of Emory University in 1978. While his specialty was medieval French literature, he enjoyed teaching French grammar and composition, as well as 17th and 20th century French literature, to his many Oxford students until his retirement in 2008.
During summers and sabbaticals, he did extensive research in Paris and other French cities, using 14th-century manuscripts concerning Melusine, the legendary ancestor of the Lusignan family, whose descendants populated many royal houses of Europe and the Middle East, with historical and political connections from the Crusades down to today’s Middle Eastern situation. He was awarded the Adele Mellon Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship in 2003 for a two-volume set on Melusine. He published many other books, including a textbook for intermediate French with Yale University Press in 2004. He also presented many papers at various conferences and had publications in scholarly journals. His last work was a 2012 Garnier Press edition of papers given at a Colloquium sponsored jointly by Emory University and the French C.N.R.S. held in Poitiers near the ancestral home of the Lusignan family. The Colloquium was presided over by Dr. Morris and Dr. Jean Jacques Vincensini, scholars recognized as the leading experts on Melusine on the North American and European continents, respectively.
Dr. Morris was an active member and officer in various learned societies, such as the Southeastern Medieval Association, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, the Philological Association of the Carolinas, and the International Medievalist Congress. He also served as a reviewer for the Medieval Academy of America’s Speculum and the S.A.M.L.A. Review. He has recently been adviser to American composer Steven Jobe, whose opera on Melusine is a work in progress. He also served as accompanying professor to a group of Emory retirees in June 2013 on a trip to the South of France.
He is survived by Susan Drinnon Morris, his wife of 47 years; sisters, Pat (James) Biddy of Euharlee, Ga., and Shirley (Herbert) Pruitt of Dalton, Ga.; and many nieces and nephews in north Georgia, Alabama, and the Cincinnati area.
The body will be cremated and a celebration of his life is planned in spring.