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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What ' s more , he cites Diego ' s earwitnesses first , perhaps owing to the fact that
there was apparently such a great number of them ; the attention to quantity
betrays a distinct lack of concern to establish narrowly epistemic criteria for what
own ideal audience by collapsing the act of reading or hearing and the fact of
knowing . This opening phrase , then , has the effect of controlling and containing
, within the language of the story itself , the encounter between the “ gentlemen ”
Montaigne in fact draws on all three of these sources in “ Des cannibales , ” but
names only Plato – and then only to reject him as a source of reliable
geographical information about America . Montaigne ' s witness is utterly