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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This doesn ' t mean that hearsay is abandoned ; it means that the ways in which
community judgments had been incorporated into the structures of cultural
authority were no longer seen as adequate , and that those judgments were no
By contrast , Imbert reports that the Paris parliament no longer accepted the (
purgatory ) oath of either defendant or plaintiff as decisive in cases where proof is
insufficient , “ pour raison de la grande facilité que les hommes du jourd ' huy ont
Obviously , if witnesses who have testified under oath are subsequently subject
to objections , the oath itself can no longer function as an index of credibility .
Because the mechanisms for establishing credibility prior to allowing witnesses