The Invention of the Eyewitness: Witnessing and Testimony in Early Modern France
In an examination of eyewitness travel writing in thirteenth- through sixteenth-century France, Andrea Frisch studies the figure of the witness at a historical juncture and in a cultural context in which that figure is generally thought to have begun to assume a recognizably modern form and function.
Whereas most accounts of early modern travel literature tend to read modern presuppositions about witnessing and testimony back into the material, Frisch approaches the early modern witness in terms of the cultural legacy of the Middle Ages. Through primary readings in law and theology, Frisch documents the tension between the ethical witness (the characteristic witness of premodernity) and the epistemic witness (the modern witness) and explores the impact of that tension on the figure of the witness in pre- and early modern French-language travel literature.
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In the Italian preface to his 1320 Latin translation of the account , Francesco
Pipino reassures potentially incredulous readers not by insisting that Marco saw
everything for himself , but by asserting the integrity of all three travelling Polos :
Whereas Marco ' s account itself foregrounds the degree to which he was
steeped in Mongol culture , Pipino , unlike Ramusio , never mentions this ; nor
does he cite any information from the account proper as evidence of its integrity .
We are told that Marco mastered the customs , languages , and scripts of the
Tartars and those they governed in marvelously short order ( “ Marc , le filz de
monseignour Nicolo , aprist si bien la coustume des Tatars et lor langage et lor