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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If I have told you of earthly things , and ye believe not , how shall ye believe , if I
tell you of heavenly things ? ” ) . Two very different modes of seeing are at issue
here ; the first is a physical , earthly seeing , " of the flesh ” ; the second is the New
205 ) This man I had was a simple , crude fellow – a character fit to bear true
witness ; for clever people observe more things and more curiously , but they
interpret them ; and to lend weight and conviction to their interpretation , they
Clever people “ bend and disguise [ things ) according to the way they have seen
them ” ; in other words , clever people have a point of view that they transmit
along with the things they have seen . Both their perceptions and their testimony