Beth Benedix is a professor of religious studies, world literature and community engagement and in her book Ghost Writer (A Story about Telling a Story), she explores the ethics of narrative. We covered some of the ethical issues of storytelling in episode 38. Today, we’re going to dive into a sort of parallel topic: the ethics of encounter. Beth’s book is a story about telling a story, but it’s also a story about encounters: Joe Koenig’s brushes with death, his experience of the Holocaust; Beth’s meetings with Joe; and Beth’s repeated encounters with Joe’s taped testimony. We’ll also discuss my encounter with this work.

These encounters are important to draw out, because they highlight the ways in which our behavior, our lives are not isolated practices in perfection. Our encounters with each other and with the stories we tell are going to affect the way we think through ethics.

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Humans are captivated by stories. Stories draw people in–they take raw facts and infuse them with meaning and significance. But is it acceptable to take the facts of someone’s life and turn them into an entertaining story? Are we, on the other hand, obligated to make stories of human suffering interesting? And what does that actually mean in practice? When is it okay for someone to tell a story that isn’t their own? Beth Benedix is a professor of religious studies, world literature and community engagement and in her book Ghost Writer (A Story about Telling a Story), she explores the ethics of narrative. In this episode, we introduce the man at the center of her story, Joe Koenig. He’s a Holocaust survivor with an amazing testimony of survival. Beth discusses what it meant to take on telling his story, and the importance of sharing stories of suffering.

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