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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... of official reports ( the case , for example , with the writings of Columbus ,
Amerigo Vespucci , Hernán Cortés and Jacques Cartier ) and thus had more in
common with a legal document than with a work of historiography in the humanist
Some of the earliest and most often - cited examples of this type of what I shall
call “ epistemic ” witnessing in the ... 1 For statements of this view , see for
example the essays collected in New World Encounters , edited by S . Greenblatt
7 One cannot help but wonder if Montaigne read Ayrault , since the essayist ' s
comments on the superiority of oral exchange in general and with respect to
witness testimony in particular ( in , for example , “ Des boyteux " ) are strikingly
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THE WITNESS AND THE JUDGE
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