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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They are recognized in the ethical sense by those who receive their original oral “
deposition . ” The resulting written record does not confer credibility on the
testimony of the knights , but draws its own authority from that possessed by the
The increasing uncertainty regarding the relative authority of the oral versus the
written deposition put the very ontological status of testimony into question .
When had a witness in fact given his testimony ? At the moment he deposed
orally , or ...
say as oral , and ostentatiously denies having consulted any books on the
subject at all . Of course , basing the credibility of a written text on a necessarily
inaccessible oral antecedent , and thus positing the priority of the oral with
respect to the ...