Professor Adam Watt

Research interests

My research to date has focussed primarily on the life and work of Marcel Proust (1871-1922). My first book, Reading in Proust's 'A la recherche': 'le délire de la lecture'  (Oxford University Press, 2009) is a study of the important and often destabilising role played by scenes of reading in Proust's novel. The US journal French Review stated that the book ‘has many qualities, not the least of which is completeness’, and the online journal O-Scholars remarked that ‘There is so much to praise in [the book] that one doesn’t quite know where to begin.’ My second book was The Cambridge Introduction to Marcel Proust (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which is the most up-to-date introduction to Proust available and is widely recommended on undergraduate syllabi; H-France Review described it as ‘punctuated with successes.’ I published an illustrated biography of Proust in Reaktion Books' 'Critical Lives' series in 2013. Here I seek to give an account of how Proust came to write A la recherche, engaging at once with his correspondence and existing biographical and critical work in the field. Reviews have described the book as 'excellent' (The Age, Australia) and 'amazing' (Gay & Lesbian Review). It was published in Chinese translation with Lijiang Publishing in 2014. The TLS review of the book can be accessed here: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1344921.eceH-France Review described the book as 'the finest short biography of Proust in print today'.

In addition to these book projects I have also contributed chapters and articles to various journals and edited collections, many of these taking a comparative approach. Following an international conference I organised in 2007 I edited a collection of essays in English and French entitled Le Temps retrouvé Eighty Years After/80 ans après: Critical Essays/Essais critiques (Peter Lang, 2009). My most recent book project is a major work of reference published by Cambridge University Press in November 2013 in their 'Literature in Context' series. Marcel Proust in Context brings together thirty essays by the world's leading scholars in the field and is likely to be a significant point of reference for years to come. Clive Scott, reviewing the book in the Journal of European Studies, described the book as 'a wonderfully coherent, effervescent, tirelessly engaging volume.' A paperback editon was published in September 2016. See http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/literature/european-literature/marcel-proust-context

I have developing research interests in two areas relating to poetry and to first-person literary writing of the late nineteenth and the twentieth century. I am developing a book project on the relations of the first-person writings of Proust, Valéry, Leiris and Beckett. Additionally I am interested in contemporary English-language ‘versions’ of modern poetry in French (by Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, amongst others) written by poets such as Tom Paulin, Ciaran Carson and Derek Mahon.

Recent talks include papers on Derek Mahon's adaptation of Valéry's 'Le cimetière marin' (IMLR, London, October 2014), on Anne Carson's wonderful The Albertine Workout (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 2015), on Proust, Valéry and colour at the Society for French Studies Conference (Cardiff, June 2015) and on Proust and Leiris (St Louis, March 2016). Also in March 2016 I gave an invited visiting 'Horizons of Knowledge' lecture at Indiana University, Bloomington, on Proust, Leiris and Beckett: see here for details http://www.indiana.edu/~cahi/events/adam-watt-lecture/.

Forthcoming later in 2017: I have a collaborative book project appearing. Brian Nelson (Monash, Australia) has produced a new translation of 'Un amour de Swann', the stand-alone love story from Proust's Du côté de chez Swann, and I have written the notes and a substantive introduction. The book will appear with Oxford World Classics this autumn. 

Research collaborations

Since September 2010 I have been a member of the Equipe Proust at the Institut des textes et manuscrits modernes/ENS Paris (http://www.item.ens.fr/index.php?id=13857). I am also a member of the research group LEA! (Lire en Europe Aujourd’hui !): see http://www.ru.nl/lea/. With Anne Simon (CNRS, EHESS, Paris) and André Benhaïm (Princeton) I am part of the editorial team of the interdisciplinary Proust hub 'Pôle Proust', launched in March 2015 (http://poleproust.hypotheses.org/).

In June 2015 I was an invited chair at a doctoral conference at one of Exeter’s Erasmus partner institutions, Université Paris Est Créteil http://www.fabula.org/actualites/proust-et-le-roman-moderne-perspectives-comparatistes-colloque-upec_68467.php. I also chaired a round table closing the Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense conference ‘Traduire la sonorité dans l’œuvre proustienne/Translating Sounds in Proust’, where I animated a panel including Prof. Christopher Prendergast, FBA, Dr Ian Patterson (both Cambridge, respectively General Editor and contributor to the Penguin Proust), James Grieve (Australian National University) and Lydia Davis, writer and translator and winner of the 2013 Man International Booker Prize. See http://anglais.u-paris10.fr/spip.php?article2199. The event took place in the Hôtel de Lauzun on the Ile St Louis, the home of the Paris Institute for Advanced Study: http://paris-iea.fr/.