• Recall this Book 10: Life, Writing, and Life Writing with Helena DeBres

    Helena DeBres, Elizabeth Ferry, John Plotz
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    How does the past live on within our experience of the present? And how does our decision to speak about or write down our recollections of how things were change our understanding of those memories-how does it change us in the present? Asking those questions brings RTB into the company of memory-obsessed writers like Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. But it also takes up into the modern phenomenon of "autofiction," a term which, if you've never heard of before today, you're in good company! But by discussing autofiction writers like Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti and Karl Ove Knausgaard, we begin to understand that the line between real-life fact, memory, and fiction is not quite as sharp as we had thought. "[Memoirs] leave out the person to whom thing happened, The reason is that it is so difficult to describe any human being So they say -this is what happened' but they do not say what the person was like to whom it happened." Virginia Woolf, "Sketch of the Past" Joining us to lead this conversation is Wellesley philosopher Helena De Bres, author of influential articles including "The Many, not the Few: Pluralism about Global Distributive Justice", "Justice in Transnational Governance", "What's Special About the State?" "Local Food: The Moral Case" and most recently "Narrative and Meaning in Life". (Her website contains links to her many fine articles for fellow philosophers and for the general public). She has recently begun to work on moral philosophy, especially the question of what makes a life meaningful, and on philosophy of art. During the episode, John ranks his favorite anthropologists, we see how both autofiction and Woolf's "Sketch of the Past" seem to arise from a dissatisfaction with other forms of writing (for Rachel Cusk, memoir or novels; for Woolf, a biography of Roger Fry), and wonder whether autofiction necessarily takes on the affect of an academic department meeting (and what that affect has to do with Kazuo Ishiguro).
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