Dr Andrew Watts BA, PhD

Photograph of Dr Andrew Watts

Department of Modern Languages
Reader in French Studies
Head of Taught Postgraduate, LCAHM

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I was appointed to the University of Birmingham in 2007, having taught previously 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 media including silent film, graphic novels, and stage musicals.


  • 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.


I teach across the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Modern Languages, including modules on language, literature, film, translation, and adaptation.

Postgraduate supervision

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.

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


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).

Other activities

I am currently co-editor (with Masha Belenky and Larry Duffy) of Dix-Neuf, the journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes.

In addition to my ongoing work with Dix-Neuf, I have been co-director (with Rob Stone, EDACS) of B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies since 2015.

In 2015, I led the University’s contribution to the bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo. This work included a public interest book, Fortunes of War: The West Midlands at the Time of Waterloo (West Midlands History, 2015), which I co-edited with Emma Tyler (Modern Languages).


Recent publications


Griffiths, K & Watts, A 2020, The History of French Literature on Film. The History of World Literatures on Film, Bloomsbury. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781501311833

Heathcote, O & Watts, A (eds) 2017, The Cambridge Companion to Balzac. Cambridge Companion to Balzac, Cambridge University Press.

Watts, A & Cheyne, M (eds) 2014, Honoré de Balzac: Le Nègre. Liverpool Online Series, vol. 19, University of Liverpool.

Watts, A & Griffiths, K 2013, Adapting Nineteenth-Century France: Literature in Film, Theatre, Television, Radio and Print. French and Francophone Studies, University of Wales Press.


Watts, A 2020, 'A mille lieues de Saumur? Ré-inventer Balzac pour la radio avec Eugénie Grandet (BBC, 2014)', L' Annee Balzacienne, vol. 21. <https://www.puf.com/content/ann%C3%A9e_balzacienne_2020_n%C2%B0_21>

Watts, A 2019, 'Balzac's voice from the beyond: adaptation and mediumship in Charles d'Orino's Contes de l'au-delà (1904)', Revue Balzac / Balzac Review, vol. 2, pp. 227-246. https://doi.org/10.15122/isbn.978-2-406-09607-8.p.0227

Watts, A 2019, 'La radio et le texte refondu: devises adaptatives dans 'The Wild Ass's Skin Reloaded' d'Adrian Penketh', L' Annee Balzacienne, vol. 20, pp. 415-430. https://doi.org/10.3917/balz.020.0415

Watts, A 2019, '«Rien ne crie plus fort que le silence»: L’auberge rouge de Jean Epstein', CinémAction, vol. 173. <http://cinemaction-collection.com/produit/cinemaction-173-balzac-a-lecran/>

Watts, A 2018, 'Balzac British Style: Avarice, Austerity and the Tight Spaces of Rex Tucker's Eugénie Grandet (BBC 2, 1965-66)', Revue Balzac / Balzac Review, vol. 2018, no. 1, pp. 37-54. https://doi.org/10.15122/isbn.978-2-406-08262-0.p.0037

Watts, A 2014, 'Balzac on the BBC: Serial breaks and adaptive returns in Père Goriot (1968)', Dix-Neuf, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 180-192. https://doi.org/10.1179/1478731814Z.00000000052

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Watts, A 2016, Adapting Balzac in Rivette’s Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t touch the axe): violence and the heritage aesthetic. in P Cooke & R Stone (eds), Screening European Heritage: Creating and Consuming History on Film. 1 edn, Palgrave European Film and Media Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 145-162. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-52280-1_8

Watts, A 2014, An overwritten mystery: Balzac, television, and une ténébreuse affaire. in A Wigelsworth & A Kimyongur (eds), (Re)-writing wrongs: French crime fiction and the palimpsest. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, pp. 95-110.

Conference contribution

Watts, A 2022, Balzac et la loi du plus fort: l'adaptation, l'éco-traductologie, et La Peau de chagrin. in Balzac et les disciplines du savoir: Actes du Colloque de Cerisy. Colloque de Cerisy, Hermann Publishers, Balzac et les disciplines du savoir, 22/08/22.


Watts, A 2023, 'Introduction', Revue Balzac / Balzac Review, no. 6, pp. 15-28. https://doi.org/10.48611/isbn.978-2-406-15143-2.p.0015

Special issue

Watts, A (ed.) 2023, 'L’adaptation/Adaptation', Revue Balzac / Balzac Review, no. 6, pp. 1-279. https://doi.org/10.48611/isbn.978-2-406-15143-2

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.