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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That alone , one might propose , would be enough to explain the absence of the
first person in the account : the court ... of translation tells us some important
things about the status of eyewitness testimony in early sixteenthcentury law
In order to understand why the introduction of the inquest did not immediately
alter the fundamentally ethical status of testimonial proof in medieval lay courts , it
is important to acknowledge that the potential “ rationality ” of inquisitional ...
French courts appear to have continued to subscribe to the ethical model of the
witness in this period , and to have simply made ever more modifications to
procedure without consciously developing a new theoretical basis upon which