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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The actual substance of witness testimony – “ le dis des tesmoins ” – is but one
criterion here , coming in third place behind the sheer number of witnesses
presented by each party , on the one hand , and the potentially bad reputation of
In any case in all of the royal courts in Poitou , we follow the procedure according
to which , at the time the case is put before the judge , one can legally bring in
witnesses and have them take the oath in the presence of the opposing party ' s ...
In fact , a party was not even required to give over a copy of the written
depositions of witnesses to the opposing party , since , as Beaumanoir explains ,
“ en la court laie l ' en ne puet riens dire contre le dit des tesmoins puis que li