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 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 ... Any part of the plea or of the written articles
that were later determined to have strayed from the oral original was rejected .
product beyond his initial oral statement , since , in the pays de droit écrit ,
witness depositions were written up in Latin until the end of the fourteenth century
; in areas governed by customary law , they were recorded in either French or