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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What ' s more , he cites Diego ' s earwitnesses first , perhaps owing to the fact that
there was apparently such a great number of them ; the attention to quantity
betrays a distinct lack of concern to establish narrowly epistemic criteria for what
The very fact that a true performative must occur in the presence of at least one
witness perhaps constitutes the fundamental distinction between it and what
Austin called the “ non - serious ” performative in How to Do Things with Words .
Given a relative familiarity with the experience of giving legal testimony in the
seafaring community , it is perhaps not surprising that the turn to experience as a
primary source of testimonial credibility ( as distinct from knowledge ) that one
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THE WITNESS AND THE JUDGE
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