Personal profile

Personal profile

James S. Williams studied French at University College London and was awarded a PhD by Queen Mary, University of London. He taught first at Rutgers University, Princeton and Fordham University in the United States, then at University of Kent (Canterbury), before joining Royal Holloway in 2004 as Professor of Modern French Literature and Film. He is currently Director of the Centre for Visual Cultures.  

Prof Williams has published widely on French/Francophone and European film and literature. He is the author of The Erotics of Passage: Pleasure, Politics, and Form in the Later Work of Marguerite Duras (St Martin’s Press/Liverpool UP, 1997), Albert Camus’s La Peste: A Critical Guide (Grant and Cutler, 2000), The Cinema of Jean Cocteau (Manchester UP, 2006), Jean Cocteau (a ‘Critical Life’) (Reaktion, 2008), Space and Being in Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester UP, 2013), and Encounters with Godard: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics (SUNY Press, 2016), and Ethics and Aesthetics of Contemporary African Cinema: The Politcs of Beauty (Bloomsbury, 2019). The latter won the 2020 R. Gapper Prize, awarded by the Society for French Studies (UK) for the best book in French Studies published in 2019. His most recent book is Frantz Fanon (Reaktion 'Critical Lives' series, 2023), and his  monograph on Ousmane Sembene's Xala (1974) for the BFI Film Classics series will appear in Spring 2024.  

Prof Williams is also co-editor of Gay Signatures: Gay and Lesbian Theory, Fiction and Film, 1945-1995 (Berg, 1998), Revisioning Duras: Film, Race, Sex (Liverpool UP, 2000), The Cinema Alone: essays on the work of Jean-Luc Godard 1985-2000 (Amsterdam UP, 2000), Gender and French Cinema (Berg, 2001), FOR EVER GODARD (Black Dog Press, 2004), Jean-Luc Godard. Documents (2006) (catalogue of the Godard exhibition held in 2006 at the Centre Pompidou, Paris), May ’68: Rethinking France’s Last Revolution (Palgrave, 2011), and Queering The Migrant in Contemporary European Cinema (Routledge, 2020). In 2011 he recorded an audio commentary for a new DVD/Blu-ray edition of Cocteau's Orphée by Criterion. 

He is currently preparing for Bloomsbury a book entitled Archives of Resistance: Race, History and Violence in Contemporary Film and Television (forthcoming in 2026-27).   

He is also guest editing special issues of the Journal of European Studies (March 2024) ('Re-presenting COVID-19: Biopolitics, Digitalisation, Citizenship') and Studies in World Cinema (Spring  2025) ('Global Queer cinema'). 

Prof Williams frequently collaborates with cultural institutions such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Tate Modern, the Institut Français and English National Opera in London. He is a contributor to The Guardian and his recent media work includes appearances on TRT (Turkish national television) and Radio 4 ('Last Word').




General Editor of French Screen Studies

Contributing Editor of Film Quarterly   

Member of the AHRC's Peer Review College

Member of the International Editorial Advisory Board of Reframe: Research in Media, Film and Music (Sussex)

Member of the Association of University Professors and Heads of French

Member of British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies


Teaching 2023-24

 FR1400: French Language: Culture and Translation

 FR2106: Cinema in France: From Modernism to the Postmodern

 LA2000: Liberal Arts II: Power, Soceity and Cultural Practice

 ML1101:  International Film I

 ML2101: International Film II

 ML3207: Transnational Cinema

 ML3208/ML3214: Comparative Literature and Culture Dissertation


 Research Interests 

 French and European Cinema

 Francophone Cinema (in particular West and Central African)

 20/21C French Literature and Thought

 Ethics and Aesthetics

 Gender and Queer Theory

 Postcolonial Cultures


I would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in postgraduate research in these areas. Interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are especially welcome.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • French and European Film, Modern French Literature and Thought, Critical Theory, Gender, Queer Theory, West African Cinema, Postcolonialism

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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