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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Early inquisitional procedure thus ultimately proved heavily indebted to folklaw ,
precisely because it continued to admit witnesses according to the “ irrational ”
criterion of renommée . Once a witness had been deemed legitimate , rational ...
While the appeal to the extent of Marco ' s own experiences in the East is clearly
meant to enhance the authority of the account of those experiences , it ultimately
exiles Polo from the community to which that account is delivered .
Despite the illusion of transparency his account creates , what Léry ' s act of
testimonial communication ultimately demonstrates is what medieval folklaw had
taken as its basis ; namely , that there can be no testimony without a witness - or ...