The Imperial Gaze: Focalization and Alignment in Tacitus’ Annales

When and Where

Friday, October 30, 2020 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
Online via Zoom


Philip Waddell, Assistant Professor of Classics, Univeristy of Arizona


The Department of Art History invites you to join us for an online seminar:

The Imperial Gaze: Focalization and Alignment in Tacitus’ Annales
Professor Philip Waddell, University of Arizona

Friday, October 30, 2020
12:30–2 pm

Online via Zoom

RSVP required. For Zoom link and passcode, please contact Professor SeungJung Kim via email.

The Roman historian Tacitus, writing in the second century CE, composed his histories using a wide array of complex narrative devices. The reader of his Annales is, through the use of these techniques, drawn into the events of history as an active participant, forcing the reader to experience similar emotional responses to those of the characters. Thus, Tacitus recreates the sensations of history, guiding his audience to both a factual and a subjective experience of the recorded past. Two of his most effective devices concern the control of the reader’s gaze, forcing the audience to interpret history through the lens of a specific character: focalization and alignment. Using Pompeian wall frescoes and illustrative examples from Classical Hollywood cinema, we will investigate the ways in which these two devices operate to create the sub-textual history of the Annales, and how they enable Tacitus to convey the terror and drama of life under the Caesars.

Philip Waddell is an assistant professor of Classics at the University of Arizona, with a forthcoming monograph (Bloomsbury Academic) entitled Tacitean Visual Narrative. He is interested in questions of
narrative in ancient historiography, as well as the ways in which narrative devices may be illustrated and understood via visual means.

Contact Information


Department of Art History