Claire Nettleton’s research primarily focuses on aesthetic revolutions in France as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Pairing 19th and early 20th century works with contemporary theories of animals and ecocriticism, she investigates the ways in which the disappearance of wildlife and the emergence of machine technology impacted creative practices. While researching her most recent project, Steel Birds and Mechanical Fish: Machine Aesthetics and Environmental Loss in French and Francophone Fiction, Nettleton has expanded her scope of expertise outside of mainland France to include the avant-garde fiction of the French Caribbean.
Her first book, The Artist as Animal in Nineteenth Century France, examines literary representations of marginalized artists from the Second Empire to the fin-de-siècle as being animal-like. The fictional relationship between artists and animals, in many ways, transforms from ambivalent to empowering. Her study challenges the assumption found in previous scholarship that 19th-century French fiction portrays animals as inferior, uncreative beings. She argues that the “artist-animal,” an embodiment of artistic liberation within an urban setting, is a significant trope of modernity that resonates today.
In addition to publishing on art and animals in Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, the Sorbonne’s Revue Histoire Culturelle et Sociale de l’Art and an edited volume titled French Ecocriticism (Peter Lang 2016), she has published on early cars and vanguard aesthetics for Nineteenth Century French Studies and the relationship between the decline of the Bièvre River in Paris and the rise of Decadent fiction for Dix-Neuf.
Nettleton is also a passionate and experienced teacher of the French language, having taught for four years as a visiting assistant professor at Scripps College with joint appointments at Harvey Mudd College and Claremont McKenna College, one year as an instructor at Université Paris X Nanterre and for five years as an assistant lecturer at the University of Southern California, where she completed her Ph.D. in French in 2010. Even at the beginning and intermediate levels, her courses integrate visual art, literary excerpts and film clips to increase language proficiency and to promote students’ appreciation for diverse aspects of French and Francophone culture.