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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Medieval testimony , by contrast , was an ethical discourse through and through .
Rather than presupposing rational actors whose aim is to construct a
Habermasian " public sphere , ” medieval folklaw procedure required parties who
In what follows , I look to the criteria for evaluating witnesses given in medieval
juridical literature in order to contextualize the medieval reception of the travel
accounts of Marco Polo and John Mandeville . As John Critchley notes in his
ports that Mandeville ' s account survives in over 300 medieval manuscripts ; the
epoch of print produced eighty editions in eight languages between 1478 and
1592 ( 26 ) . Polo , by contrast , survives in around 150 medieval manuscripts ,