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Nova tellus

Print version ISSN 0185-3058


RUSSO, Nicolás. Tacitus’ Germania: within the limits of literary genre. Nova tellus [online]. 2022, vol.40, n.1, pp.137-168.  Epub Apr 08, 2022. ISSN 0185-3058.

This article proposes a new generic label for Tacitus’ Germania as “frontier ethnography”. Our reading is supported by Germania’s textual instability, due to its topical originality and compositive innovation. Although these features place Germania in a disruptive positioning face of historiographical tradition of Monography, it is consistent with the particular rhetorical situation of the late first century AD, traversed by the mixture of genres and the inversion of center-periphery relationships, and with the rise of a new dynasty as well. These characteristics are found in the two main text features of Germania. On the one hand, Ethnography, which was traditionally relegated to the excursus, is used here as the text’s main narrative device, whereas historical discourse is relocated to the digression. On the other hand, Barbaric periphery beyond the frontier becomes the central narrative matter of the text. Therefore, these textual features allow us to state that Germania insinuates a discourse move towards the limits of Roman generic and geographical space. Hence, Tacitus’ Germania can be interpreted as a literary exercise representing a new space within its sociopolitical context: the frontier.

Keywords : Germania; Tacitus; Genre; Frontier; Ethnography.

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