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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The moment one is a witness and the moment one attests , bears witness , the
instant one gives testimony , there must ... the moment in which they bear witness
, since their testimony is not predicated on some prior episV temic experience .
... and you cannot bear witness ; or else you were there , you could not therefore
have seen everything , and you cannot ... have had a firsthand experience of
some event ; and that testimony requires that one “ bear witness about everything
( In this , he bears more than a passing resemblance to Dante ' s pilgrim . ) It is
precisely this privileging of ethos that justifies Iain Higgins ' s recent reading of
Mandeville ' s book as a " representative witness to [ medieval ] Latin
Christendom ' s ...