Andrea Marie Frisch

Andrea Frisch’s research examines the place of literary works in the social, cultural, and political context of the Reformation in early modern France. Her interests in testimony, historiography, and the French Wars of Religion have yielded several peer-reviewed publications in leading international journals; she has given invited lectures at universities throughout North America and Europe, and has been a fellow at the Newberry Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Humanities Center, and the Center for Advanced Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.

        Frisch’s first book, The Invention of the Eyewitness: Witnessing and Testimony in Early Modern France (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), examines the links between the witness of the law courts (where procedures were undergoing rapid transformation within the increasingly centralized and bureaucratic French judicial system at the end of the 15th century), the figure of the witness in theological writings (highlighting the importance of this figure for Calvinist theology in 16th-century France), the eyewitness narrator of travel literature (again a privileged yet controversial figure in the age of the American encounter), and the use and representation of the witness-as-narrator in literary and philosophical texts like François Rabelais’s Pantagruel and Michel de Montaigne’s Essais.  The book’s arguments bring to the fore the extreme tension in this period between traditional ethical models of witnessing (for which a witness’s reputation and social standing were paramount), on the one hand, and an epistemic conception of witnessing (according to which eyewitnessing gained special prestige as a depersonalized, quasi-objective form of testimony), on the other.

       Frisch’s second book, Forgetting Differences: Tragedy, Historiography and the French Wars of Religion (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), is a study of the rhetoric of reconciliation in the wake of France’s Wars of Religion.  Taking account of the overlaps and disjunctions between juridical and theological conceptions of pardon, amnesty, and reconciliation, and opening up a broader inquiry into conceptions of memory and forgetting as they bore on representations of the Wars of Religion in historiography and theatrical tragedy from 1550–1630, the arguments in the book aim to shed light on the evolution of attitudes toward history in early modern Europe, provide an account of the emergence of the ideal of aesthetic distance as one of the foundations of French literary theory of the seventeenth century, and offer an analysis of the role of emotion in the process of postwar reconciliation in early modern France.

        The question of the memory of the Wars of Religion remains central to her newest book project (provisionally entitled Fictions of Religious War in Early Modern France and Germany), a comparative examination of the ways in which memories of the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are transmitted through literary and historiographical works in the centuries after the Edict of Nantes, in particular in exchanges between France and Germany.

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