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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custom , because we do not enter pleas in writing . . . . And it is appropriate that
the men who are to judge a case retain by heart the matter that they are to judge ”
) . He goes on to say that since some disputes produce so much information that
The writing here is ancillary ; what is essential for the credibility of the knights '
testimony is that they depose in person to ... The resulting written record does not
confer credibility on the testimony of the knights , but draws its own authority from
Similar formulae were used when judges invited parties to submit their complaint
in writing ( to “ bailler par escript ... 28 ) , again implying the originary oral
encounter from which the written elements of early inquisitional procedure were ...