Buffon Versus the Beast: Taming the Wild Artist in Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin

  • Claire Nettleton
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


This chapter on Thérèse Raquin (1867) by Emile Zola (1840–1902) analyzes the battle between two protagonists Camille and Laurent—one a bourgeois esthete and the other an artist-animal—as representative of the tension between conservative Buffonian versus radical Darwinian views regarding the organic world. Whereas Camille studies creatures at the Jardin des Plantes, the painter Laurent is an animal. Zola’s scientific literature sought to strip characters to their physical essence. The reevaluation of the human subject contributed to a radical approach to literature—a quest to find “the beast” within man. Deconstructing Zola’s essentialist construct of “the inner animal” in humans (which ignores the varieties of individual species and beings as articulated by Derrida), this chapter also argues that Thérèse Raquin may enhance the fields of contemporary animal studies and aesthetics (Deleuze, Guattari, Aloi and Baker) by linking animals and modern art.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Nettleton
    • 1
  1. 1.Pomona CollegeClaremontUSA

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