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Voix de la foule chez Tacite : perspectives littéraires et historiques sur la communication collective au début de l'Empire

Abstract : This dissertation aims at studying from a variety of perspectives the collective vocalisations in Tacitus. The voices of the crowd are usually treated as mere background, annoying noise by the historian; but they are actually linked to different key issues on the socio-political, historiographical and literary levels. These should not be considered separately but as an ideological system of representation. Thus, we try in this study to adopt a historical and literary approach, showing how the social phenomena are turned into a literary material by Tacitus.The first section takes a look at the political vocabulary of Tacitus, starting with the concept of crowd (chap. 1). The key word here is certainly uulgus (uulgus urbanum or uulgus militum), which should not be considered as an empty concept, but rather as a very specific type of crowd, whose voice became central in the institutions of the imperial regime. We apply our conclusions to the text with two case studies (the crowds in the mutinies of Annals I, the crowd in the banishment of Octavia). In chap. 2, we look into the clamour, defined as vertical communication between the crowd and the individual. We first determine Tacitus’ main formulae to refer to the collective shouts, and then show how the historian turned it into a way to characterise the crowd’s state of mind and to make his narrative more vivid or pathetic.Chap. 3 to 5 (= section 2) form a historical analysis of the rumour, a phenomenon that is closely connected to Tacitus’ works but whose comprehension is more accurate if other sources – for the late Republican or early Imperial period – are taken into account. In chap. 3, we go beyond the negative stereotypes of our sources to define the rumour as a true channel of information and communication. This channel was reticular and exponential, and thus opposite to the linearity of the aristocratic media. In chap. 4, we build on the theories of the interactionist sociology of the rumour to address the question of the times and places where rumours were exchanged in Rome and in the military camps, focusing on the sociability networks as well as on the motivation and social profile of the gossipers. Chap. 5 concerns the place of the rumours within the “media landscape” of ancient Rome. Most of the time, the crowd would use rumour to acquire pieces of information which the authorities did not have yet or were not willing to disclose. Yet, rumours also played an active – and more conventional – part in delivering official news beyond the primary place of interaction where it was broken to the crowd (the contiones, for example).In the last part of this dissertation, we come back to the literary analysis of Tacitus’ text to investigate how he combines the historical features of the rumour with the narrative elaboration. Chap. 6 analyses how Tacitean rumours work as a narratological device, used to bring forward innuendoes or to characterise individuals, but also to structure the transition points of the narrative or to create thematic unity. Chap. 7 delves into more historiographical issues. Starting from the consideration that rumours are frequently excluded from the reconstruction of historical causation, we first examine the choral function of some collective discourses: they allow Tacitus to step outside the framework of rational history, to which he should normally be compelled, and to incorporate into the text elements of emotional and even counterfactual history. The end of the chapter reflects upon the use of the rumour as a source (auctor) for the historian.The conclusion offers some perspective on a sociocritical approach of the subaltern voices in Tacitus, followed by two appendices: a complete status quaestionis about rumours in Classics and Ancient History, and a lexico-syntactic survey of the Tacitean rumours.
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Louis Autin. Voix de la foule chez Tacite : perspectives littéraires et historiques sur la communication collective au début de l'Empire. Littératures. Universität Osnabrück, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAL016⟩. ⟨tel-02484119⟩

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