Dr Andrew Watts BA, PhD

Photograph of Dr Andrew Watts

Department of Modern Languages
Senior Lecturer in French Studies

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I was appointed to the University of Birmingham in 2007, having previously taught at the universities of Bristol and Newcastle. I am a specialist in nineteenth-century French prose fiction, especially the work of Honoré de Balzac. My current research focuses on adaptations of classic novels from this period in a variety of different media including silent film, graphic novels, and stage musicals.

Discussing 'Adaptations' on ScreenBrum: https://www.mixcloud.com/BrumRadio/screenbrum-adaptations-25062017


BA (First Class), PhD (Bristol)


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.



  • Module convenor: Adapting Nineteenth-Century France (Year 4)
  • Module convenor: Dissertation française (Year 4)
  • French Translation (Year 4)
  • Module convenor (semester 2): Writing, Reacting, Adapting (Year 2)
  • European Cinema (Year 2)
  • Landmarks in European Literature (Year 1)
  • Year 1 Core: 'Film Adaptation and Multicultural France' (plenary)

Taught postgraduate

  • MRes ‘Intellectual Subversives’: Realism and Adaptation

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising the following postgraduate students:

  • Jenny Birk (PhD)
  • Waleed al-Subhi (PhD)
  • Ira Ortigosa (PhD)
  • Terry Anderson (PhD)
  • Diane Michael (PhD)
  • Michael Bruce (MA by Research)

I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduates, especially those who wish to work on Balzac, adaptation, and nineteenth-century French prose fiction.

Find out more - our PhD French Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My current research focuses on adaptations of nineteenth-century French literature in a variety of different media. My most recent monograph, Adapting Nineteenth-Century France: Literature in Film, Theatre, Television, Radio and Print, was co-authored with Kate Griffiths (Cardiff) and published by University of Wales Press in 2013. This project has been praised extensively by reviewers in the United Kingdom and abroad:

  • ‘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's work illustrates how thinking or writing about adaptation may be viewed as adaptive processes in which the theory of adaptation is always transformed’ (French Studies).
  • ‘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).

With Owen Heathcote (Bradford), I am co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Balzac (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and have recently contracted to write a further book with Kate Griffiths under the title The History of French Literature on Film. This book will form part of a new series, ‘Literatures on Film’, published by Bloomsbury and edited by colleagues at the University of Connecticut.

I am one of the co-founders, with Kate Griffiths and Bradley Stephens, of the ART (Adaptation, Recreation, Translation) research cluster, which manages a number of key research projects in adaptation studies, and takes as its broader aim the reconceptualization of adaptation as an academic discipline. Under the umbrella of ART, I co-edited a special issue of Dix-Neuf on the theme of multimedia adaptation, which appeared in July 2014.

I served as Conference Officer for the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes from 2009-11, and am co-editor of the proceedings of two annual conferences (‘Memory’, 2008, and ‘Aller(s)-Retour(s)’, 2009), with Susan Harrow (University of Bristol) and Loïc Guyon (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick) respectively. 

I was appointed co-editor of Dix-Neuf, the journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, in April 2017.

Other activities

I have spoken widely on Balzac and the nineteenth century at conferences including French Studies, Nineteenth Century French Studies, and the annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes. In 2008-09 I was also the organiser of a research seminar series at Birmingham, on the theme of contemporary re-imaginings and re-presentations of nineteenth-century French literature. This series was funded by the Dean’s Initiative Fund, and welcomed guest speakers of international renown, including the author and illustrator Posy Simmonds (Gemma Bovery, 1999).

With Professor Rob Stone (EDACS), I am co-director of B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies. As part of this role, I am currently responsible for organising and hosting a B-Film seminar series on film adaptations of literary works. The inaugural event in this series took place in December 2015 and featured a screening of My Summer of Love (2004) followed by a Q&A session with Helen Cross, the author of the original novel on which this film is based.

In January 2016, B-Film was also proud to announce a new partnership with the Electric, the oldest working cinema in the United Kingdom. Over the past two years, the Electric has screened a series of classic films from the past century, many of which have been introduced by members of B-Film. Further information on the Cinematic Time Machine season is available on The Electric website. I was delighted to introduce two of my favourite films, Rocky and Good Morning, Vietnam, during this season. 

My recent public engagement activities have also included leading the University's participation in the bicentenary commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo in June 2015. With Dr Emma Tyler (French Studies), I co-edited a book exploring the little-known connections between our region and Waterloo. Fortunes of War: The West Midlands at the Time of Waterloo was published by History West Midlands in April 2015 and is available to buy.

I am a member of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes and the Conseil d’Administration of the Groupe international de recherches balzaciennes (GIRB).


Watts Adapting FranceMonographs

  • (with Kate Griffiths), The History of French Literature on Film (under contract with Bloomsbury and due for publication in 2018/19)
  • (with Kate Griffiths), Adapting Nineteenth-Century France: Literature in Film, Theatre, Television, Radio and Print (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2013)
  • Preserving the Provinces: Small Town and Countryside in the Work of Honoré de Balzac (Oxford: Peter Lang, French Studies of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century, 2007)

Critical editions

  • (with Michelle Cheyne), Honoré de Balzac: 'Le Nègre' (Liverpool Online Series, 2014)

The Cambridge Companion to Balzac coverEdited books

  • (with Owen Heathcote), The Cambridge Companion to Balzac (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
  • (with Emma Tyler), Fortunes of War: The West Midlands at the Time of Waterloo (Alcester: West Midlands History, 2015). A podcast recording to accompany this book is available
  • (with Loïc Guyon), Aller(s)-Retour(s): Nineteenth-Century France in Motion (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013)
  • (with Susan Harrow), Mapping Memory in Nineteenth-Century France (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012)

Special issues

  • (with Kate Griffiths and Bradley Stephens), Adaptation, special issue of Dix-Neuf, 18.2 (July 2014)

Articles and book chapters

  • 'Balzac British Style: Avarice, Austerity, and the Tight Spaces of Rex Tucker's Eugénie Grandet (BBC 2, 1965-66)' (forthcoming in the Revue Balzac / Balzac Review, July 2018)
  • ‘Adapting Balzac’, in The Cambridge Companion to Balzac, ed. by Andrew Watts and Owen Heathcote (Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 157-74
  • 'Adapting Balzac in Jacques Rivette’s Ne Touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, 2007): Violence and the Post-Heritage Aesthetic', in Screening European Heritage, ed. by Paul Cooke and Rob Stone (Palgrave, 2016), pp. 145-61
  • ‘News from the Battlefield: Waterloo and the West Midlands Press’, in Fortunes of War: The West Midlands at the Time of Waterloo, ed. by Andrew Watts and Emma Tyler (Alcester: West Midlands History, 2015), 36-40
  • 'An Overwritten Mystery: Balzac, Television, and Une ténébreuse affaire', in (Re)-Writing Wrongs: French Crime Fiction and the Palimpsest, ed. by Amy Wigelsworth and Angela Kimyongur (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 95-110
  • 'Balzac on the BBC: Serial Breaks and Adaptive Returns in Père Goriot (1968)', Dix-Neuf, 18.2 (July 2014), 180-92
  • 'Les Spectres muets: l'adaptation de Balzac dans Narayana et The Conquering Power', L'Année balzacienne (2012), 213-29 
  • ‘Cracks in a Cartoon Landscape: Fragmenting Memory in Posy Simmonds’ Gemma Bovery’, Essays in French Literature and Culture (November 2011), 45-65
  • 'Footsteps in the Snow: Piecing Together Time in Madame Bovary and Contre-enquête sur la mort d’Emma Bovary’, South Carolina Modern Language Review, 10.1 (Autumn 2011), 13-24
  • ‘Mao’s China in the Mirror: Reversing the Exotic in Dai Sijie’s Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise’, Romance Studies, 29.1 (January 2011), 27-39
  • Searching for gold: Honoré de Balzac and the redemption of provincial France’, Lingua romana, 7 (Autumn 2008)
  • ‘An Exercise in International Relations, or the Travelling Salesman in Touraine: Balzac’s L’Illustre Gaudissart’, in Currencies: Fiscal Fortunes and Cultural Capital in Nineteenth-Century France, ed. by Sarah Capitanio et al. (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2005), 161-73

Short articles

  • 'Silent Spectaculars: Adapting Balzac in Le Mort vivant and L'Auberge rouge', Romance Notes, 52.1 (2012), 61-69
  • ‘A Matter of (Bad) Taste? Honoré de Balzac’s Contes drolatiques in England and America’, French Studies Bulletin, 118 (Spring 2011) 11-14
  • ‘Two Tales of One City: Balzac and the Decline of Tours’, French Studies Bulletin, 99 (Summer 2006), 37-40

Encyclopedia entries

  • I have completed several entries for The Literary Encyclopedia including ‘Honoré de Balzac’ (2006), Eugénie Grandet, La Rabouilleuse,Le Colonel Chabert, La Cousine Bette (all 2008), and Le Père Goriot (2009).


  • I have reviewed numerous publications for journals including French Studies, Modern Language Review, Forum for Modern Language Studies, and The English Historical Review.

Recent conference papers and invited lectures

  • Cinematic Spleen and Artistic Ideals: Adapting Balzac under the Occupation (1940-44)', annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes ('Spleen et Idéal'), University of Kent, 10-12 April 2017
  • 'Serial returns of the undead Balzac: Le Père Goriot on the BBC', invited paper at the Maison Française d'Oxford, 27 February 2016
  • 'Balzac's other side: mediumship and literary adaptation in Charles d'Orino's Contes de l'au-delà', annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes ('Heaven and Hell'), University of Exeter, 8-10 April 2013
  • 'Pastiche in pieces: rewriting Flaubert in Contre-enquête sur la mort d'Emma Bovary', colloquium on 'Crime Fiction and the Palimpsest', University of Durham, 14 September 2012
  • 'Silent Crimes: Balzac, Epstein, and L'Auberge rouge', annual conference of Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 27-29 October 2011
  • ‘Wrecked reels and silent spectaculars: L’Auberge rouge and Le Mort vivant’, annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes (‘Dirt and Debris’), University of Birmingham, 7-9 April 2011
  • ‘Balzac et l'exotique à rebours’, special lecture given at the Maison de Balzac (Passy), 20 June 2009
  • ‘Reversing the provincial exotic: Balzac, Ursule Mirouët, and a little Chinese seamstress’, annual conference of Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Vanderbilt University (Nashville), 15-17 October 2008
  • ‘Balzac and the politics of provincial difference: From Les Chouans to Un caractère de femme’, annual conference of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France (‘Mapping France’), University of Reading, 6-8 September 2007
  • ‘A matter of (bad) taste? Honoré de Balzac’s Contes drolatiques in England and America’, annual conference of the Society of French Studies, University of Birmingham, 2-4 July 2007
  • ‘Power to the young? Balzac’s jeunocratie, from Une fille d’Ève to Z. Marcas’, annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes (‘Institutions and Power’), 27-29 March 2007

View all publications in research portal


I have previously acted as an academic expert on the work of Honoré de Balzac for BBC Radio. I welcome media enquiries relating to any aspect of nineteenth-century French prose fiction, especially with regard to adaptations of canonical novels from this period.