Andrew Watts

Colleges, School and Institutes


I completed my first degree in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at the University of Bristol in 1999, graduating with first-class honours with distinctions in spoken French and Spanish. Following a year in industry, I returned to Bristol in September 2000 to begin my doctoral thesis on the work of Honoré de Balzac, under the supervision of Professor Timothy Unwin. I obtained my PhD in 2004, and the book arising from this research was published by Peter Lang in 2007 under the title Preserving the Provinces: Small Town and Countryside in the Work of Honoré de Balzac.

Following the completion of my doctorate, I spent a semester at Birmingham as a Visiting Lecturer before taking up a one-year post at Newcastle University. I returned to Birmingham as Lecturer in French Studies in 2007.

Research interests

My research interests encompass nineteenth-century French literature, particularly the works of Honoré de Balzac, and, more recently, multimedia adaptations of classic fiction. I am the author and co-author of three books in these areas: Preserving the Provinces: Small Town and Countryside in the Work of Honoré de Balzac (Peter Lang, 2007), Adapting Nineteenth-Century France (with Kate Griffiths, UWP, 2013), and The History of French Literature on Film (with Kate Griffiths, Bloomsbury, 2020).

I am the co-editor (with Owen Heathcote) of The Cambridge Companion to Balzac (CUP, 2017).

My work has garnered recognition both in the UK and internationally.

Selected reviews

Adapting Nineteenth-Century France

‘Griffiths’s and Watts’s work remains a major work of scholarship. They persuasively encourage exciting new directions for how adaptation studies – and how thinking on the reception of nineteenth-century French literature – can move beyond restrictive models of understanding’ (Modern Language Review).

‘Griffiths and Watts make important statements about the power of translation in and through adaptation across different media. Such statements deserve the widest possible recognition, particularly in an era when the very existence of material deemed readable is threatened by adaptation onto screens of various shapes and sizes’ (Nineteenth Century French Studies).

The Cambridge Companion to Balzac

‘Taking up most of Honoré de Balzac’s œuvre, including La Comédie humaineThe Cambridge Companion to Balzac is an excellent introduction to Balzac studies for beginning French scholars, and contains many well-written contributions that adeptly introduce key questions at a level that will be comprehensible to any college student. […] This volume is entirely worthy of becoming the definitive introduction to Balzac studies; any of the essays contained therein could be used in any literature classroom to give a sense of the broader questions in literary studies. It is also a much-needed reflection on Balzac’s place in the canon of francophone literature’ (Nineteenth Century French Studies).

The History of French Literature on Film

‘Kate Griffiths and Andrew Watts pass the baton of adaptation between them, chapter to chapter, and never flag in their 125-year relay race through film history. They focus on French literary sources because so many producers, directors and spectators-not just French ones-have always done so. Across wildly distinct periods of national and transnational history, French literature has been passed around, becoming itself a highly valued cultural relay. It has been honored, toyed with, profited from, and often re-energized in an unregulated fairground economy that the authors delight in exposing’ (Dudley Andrew, R. Selden Rose Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University).

‘Bold in its historical and transnational scope, incisive in its argument, and illuminating in its analysis, The History of French Literature on Film is a milestone achievement - a study of deep value to researchers in adaptation studies, film studies, translation studies, and cultural history. Griffiths and Watts offer a vision for how we should value adaptation for its intrinsic innovation and also, crucially, for what the adaptive process reveals of our world and times, present and past, as it shapes and is shaped by social, economic, interpersonal, political, aesthetic, contextual, and diasporic pressures and possibilities across cinema's long history. Important revisionist readings of 'Tradition of Quality' cinema and 1970s porn bring fresh angles to film studies, and to wider research in 'middle-brow' cultures and postcolonial studies. Expert discussion, abundant insights, and sheer clarity of prose make this a compelling title for readers in search of a sense-making study of the agency and the porosity of film adaptation across the long twentieth century’ (Susan Harrow, Ashley Watkins Professor of French, University of Bristol).

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I have supervised a number of postgraduate projects at both Masters and PhD level, including work on Balzac and adaptation, silent film, and translation and intertextuality. I am currently co-supervising several doctoral theses on topics ranging from representations of Caribbean identity in film to images of the family in French Occupation cinema.

I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students, particularly those with interests in Balzac, Adaptation Studies, and nineteenth-century French literature more widely.