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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... a theory that Léry will adapt in his attempt to serve as an ethnographic witness
of the New World in the Old . The Calvinist witness is a particular individual who
presumes to testify to an absolute truth that is valid outside the parameters of any
By virtue of pretending to be able to address " all people , ” Polo ' s account
ultimately addresses no single group in particular . ( It is thus no surprise that the
identity of Polo ' s historical intended audience remains a subject of scholarly
debate . ) ...
incides with a particular eyewitness , nor even with a concrete group of
eyewitnesses , but remains an abstraction whose referent constantly shifts
throughout the narrative . One of the narrative functions of this “ nous ” is to bridge
the distance ...