Professor James Williams

Personal profile


James 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 as well as Year Abroad Officer for the department.


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. 

He 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 Orphée by Criterion. 

He is currently working on a critical biography of Frantz Fanon for Reaktion (forthcoming 2022).





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 2019-20

 FR2106: Cinema in France: From Modernism to the Postmodern

 FR3119: Final-year French Dissertation

 FR3126: Redefining the Erotic in Contemporary French Literature and Film 

 LA2000: Power and Dissent 

 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.


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