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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After establishing the extent to which the “ ethical " witnessing characteristic of
medieval European folklaw ( and parodied by Rabelais ) persisted in both
juridical theory and practice after the introduction of the so - called rational
procedures of ...
generally ) , ethics remains secondary to epistemology . For Derrida , the ethical
dimension of testimony seems to derive from testimony ' s limitations as an
epistemic discourse ( which in turn derive from its ontological divideness against
It is in LÚvinas ' s work that one can perceive the most persistent echoes of the
ethics of medieval folklaw , particularly ... as a member of an ethical community –
the folklaw witness must understand that he owes his very existence to others .