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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... temporal gap between the moment of witnessing and the moment of bearing
witness . For Derrida , this unavoidable gap introduces a fundamental ontological
divide within testimony : “ to testify is always on the one hand to do it at present .
In other words , because they severely restricted who was eligible to testify at the
outset of an inquest , thirteenth - and fourteenth - century French lay courts do not
appear to have found it necessary to allow for objections to the testimony given ...
Beaumanoir corroborates this view in a striking way when he notes that while the
underage are ineligible to be witnesses , they can testify about events that
happened in their youth after they come of age ( 1198 ) . The witness is not the