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Louis AUTIN, winner of the 2020 Academic Thesis Award

Louis Autin is the winner of the Academic Thesis Award 2020 with 7 other PhDs for his thesis presented in 2019 and entitled "Voices of the Crowd in Tacitus: Literary and Historical Perspectives on the Collective Communication in the Early Roman Empire". The academic thesis prizes were awarded to eight Doctors using criteria of excellence specific to each discipline and represented by the 13 doctoral schools on site.
Winner of the 2020 Academic Thesis Award : Louis AUTIN

Louis AUTIN, lauréat du prix de thèse académique 2020Thesis title: Voices of the Crowd in Tacitus: Literary and Historical Perspectives on the Collective Communication in the Early Roman Empire

Doctoral school: ED LLSH - Languages, Literature and Humanities

Host laboratory: Arts and practices of text, image, screen and stage (Litt&Arts - CNRS / UGA)

Thesis supervisors: Isabelle COGITORE and Christiane KUNST (joint supervision with the University of Osnabrück - Germany)

Key words : 
crowd, voice, Tacitus, people, army, noise

Drawing on both classical literature and ancient history, this thesis examines the way in which information circulated among non-elite groups at the beginning of the Roman Empire (urban plebeians, armies, etc.) and the way in which the crowds voiced their opinion of the imperial elites. At the same time, the study examines the depiction of these communication practices in the literature of the period, and more particularly the role that Tacitus, the principal historian of the period, attributed to clamour and rumour in the organization of his narrative.

Verba uolant, scripta manent: spoken words fly away, written words remain. This proverb makes it clear why it is so difficult to analyse the multiple kinds of voices of the crowd (shouts, clamours, rumours, collective vocalisations in general) in Tacitus, an author who seems to constantly despise them and to use them only for rhetorical purposes. Yet, an ancient historian could not avoid drawing from the social sphere to compose his narrative, particularly when he reported any form the uox populi could take: on the contrary, he “encodes” these voices and turns them into a literary material. It is the aim of this study to analyse this operation. We first try to determine the various forms of the collective communication in the urban and military spheres of the 1st century CE; we then show that, when Tacitus uses a clamour to make a scene more vivid or moving, resorts to the rumour as a mean of innuendo or relies on the dramatizing function of the gossips (to give but some examples of the literary functions of the communication of the crowd in Tacitus), we should not analyse them separately from the historical phenomena upon which they rely. Between Tacitus the historian and Tacitus the artist, we should build bridges rather than walls.

> Discover all the winners of the 2020 Thesis Awards

Updated on June 3, 2020


The College and the doctoral schools (except Philo) moved on September 1st, 2020 to join the Maison Jean Kuntzmann at 110 rue de la Chimie 38400 Saint-Martin-d'Hères on the University Campus (Tram B and C, stops "Bibliothèques universitaires").
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