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 ontological status of testimony qua testimony is in this context not determined
( or determinable ) as a purely linguistic structure , but is rather only consolidated
at the moment the testimony is received . Consequently , testimony cannot be ...
What is being asserted in this part of Gonneville ' s deposition , then , is not
merely Essomericq ' s reputation ( “ bien regardé ” as he reportedly was ) , but
more importantly , Gonneville ' s status as a “ compatriot ” of the people of
In medieval folklaw , let us recall , the question of the witness ' s experience was
secondary to the question of his status in his community . In the early inquisition ,
as well as in medieval eyewitness travel literature , we saw how the question of ...