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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We can observe a modified instance of this inversion in the hierarchy of the
criteria used to evaluate witnesses and testimony in Gonneville ' s Relation
authentique . While Gonneville ' s reputation appears to have constituted the
legal basis for ...
The referent of the first - person plural continually shifts : Initially , the criterion of (
Catholic ) faith is what determines membership in the community conjured by
Cartier ' s letter ; this community ' s most prominent member appears to be none ...
The language of signs thus appears to transcend the boundaries between both
cultures and individuals . From our historical vantage point , the assurance with
which Columbus , Cartier and others used and interpreted physical gestures