Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Eric Rebillard: Rethinking Documents as Media in Martyr Narratives

The embedding of documents in martyr narratives has been considered only from the point of view of their authenticity. This paper suggests that whether they are authentic or not is little relevant to what they do in the narratives. A comparison with how contemporary texts use documents helps to point out the singularity of the martyr narratives. Thus, the use of documents in historiography, apologetics, and novels will be reviewed. Such a comparison not only invites to blur the boundaries between fiction and history, but shows that in martyr narratives documents are used in lieu of narrative, not as a support or catalyst for it. This specificity derives from the structure of testimony as analyzed by Derrida and Agamben: the ‘true’ witnesses (of the Holocaust for Agamben, of martyrdom for Derrida) are those who did not bear witness. The mediation of a story inevitably makes the distinction between fiction and testimony “tremble” (Derrida).

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