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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Whereas autobiographical assertions of the type Derrida considers as the
quintessence of testimony in his essays on Blanchot and Celan can indeed be
approached in the terms he derives from his reconsideration of what he calls a “
9 This essay is. 8 Imbert / Guenois 1609 : Guenois glosses this as “ nous ne
recevons à faire preuve que les tesmoins ont deposé en faux sinon au cas que le
tesmoin soit accusé de corruption ou subornation ” ( 334 ) . 9 All French citations
represented by Plato and Aristotle , quickly become the experiences of the
French nation or European society or even mankind as a whole as the essay
progresses . In one of his many hymns of praise to New World societies in this