Professor Adam Watt

Head of Modern Languages, Professor of French and Comparative Literature


Extension: 2424

Telephone: 01392 722424

From 1st August 2018, I am Head of Modern Languages. I previously served as the department's Director of Research (2014-18).


My research to date has focussed primarily on the life and work of Marcel Proust (1871-1922). I wrote my doctoral thesis (2005) and published my first book (2009) on the act of reading in Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. My other books include The Cambridge Introduction to Marcel Proust (2011); an illustrated critical biography, Marcel Proust (2013; Chinese edition 2014); and, most recently, as editor, a major reference work, Marcel Proust in Context (2013; paperback 2016) in the Cambridge University Press ‘Literature in Context’ series. I have published articles and chapters in English and French on various aspects of Proust’s work and delivered conference papers and invited talks in the UK, in France, Holland and the United States. Many of my publications take a comparative approach,examining Proust's writing in relation to authors such as Dante, Samuel Beckett, Roland Barthes, Eve Sedgwick and Anne Carson. I organised a major international conference at Exeter in December 2013 to commemorate the centenary of Du côté de chez Swann. A selection of papers from the conference appeared in 2015 as a special number of Marcel Proust Aujourd'hui that I guest-edited. See An article of mine on letters of rupture in Proust was recently published in Danish translation in a special number of the Danish journal of literature and criticism, Passage: see

Other recent publications include my 2016 review essay about the French television adaptation of Proust's novel:; an article published in Contemporary French and Francophone Studies on Anne Carson's The Albertine Workout; and another, on poetry, painting and colour in Proust and Valery, that appeared in the summer 2017 number of French Studies.

I am interested in the evolution of twentieth-century first-person writing after Proust, specifically the cases of Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Michel Leiris(1901-90) and Samuel Beckett (1906-89). I have published on French poetry in translation and the writing of ‘versions’: free, adaptive interpretations of French poetic writings by authors such as Derek Mahon, Tom Paulin and Ciaran Carson. I write reviews for a number of journals, including the Times Literary Supplement.

History of the Novel in French

I am editor of a major new project currently underway, The Cambridge History of the Novel in French. This edited volume will consist of forty commissioned chapters by specialists, spanning from the late medieval period to the present day. There has been no such work, aiming at comprehensiveness of coverage, since George Saintsbury's two-volume History of the French Novel (1917-19). One hundred years on, the present project will address this peculiar gap in scholarship.