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
If “ nous ” means “ we Frenchmen , ” then the French reader becomes implicated
in the text which bears witness to the New World . Another function of this
pronoun , however , is to serve as an index of a first - person experience that
Moreover , there is never any reported dispute among exploring party members
as to what specific gestures mean . The language of ... of communication . The
body simply says what it means , and what it means is immediately understood .