Helena De Bres on Life-Writing (JP, EF)


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 back in 2019 brought RTB into the company of memory-obsessed writers like Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. Discussing autofiction by Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti and Karl Ove Knausgaard, John and Elizabeth begin to understand that the line between real-life fact, memory, and fiction is not quite as sharp as we had thought.

Joining Recall This Book for this conversation is 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.

John ranks his favorite anthropologists, while Elizabeth wonders 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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Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world. Recall This Book is hosted by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and John Plotz, Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.

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