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Public invited to join class discussions via Zoom; limited seating available

Sep 10, 2020
A grid of six people in a Zoom screenshot
A grid of six people in a Zoom screenshot

KOKOMO, Ind. — Community members are invited to discuss current events through the lens of literature and film by joining an Indiana University Kokomo humanities class as a guest student.

 The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is making space available in eight sessions via Zoom to join discussions of fiction, non-fiction, and film, and how they relate to current events including the COVID-19 pandemic, the more urgent push for racial justice, and the contentious presidential election.

 Those who would like to join the discussion may contact the instructors for a link to be part of the class for a session. There is no charge to attend, but space is limited. (List of sessions below).

 Dean Eric Bain-Selbo said any of the year’s events would have been huge news on its own.

 “Now we’re living through all three at once,” he said. “It struck us that those of us in the humanities and social sciences are really well positioned to analyze and think through what’s going on right now, to see it more clearly now.”

 Bain-Selbo, along with Andrew McFarland, associate professor of history; and Karla Stouse, senior lecturer in English and humanities, are the faculty members welcoming guest students.

 McFarland’s sessions will be part of his Europe in the 20th Century class, with non-fiction writing by George Orwell.

 “With a story in the past, it’s easier to start talking about these current issues, and work your way to ‘what are the implications of that?’ and thinking through what it means in terms of what’s going on now,” McFarland said. “You start thinking about them somewhere safer.”

 Having some classes virtually this semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic gave the opportunity to invite people in to participate, Bain-Selbo said, and could be something HSS could continue.

 “I hope this is the beginning of something we can continue beyond this series,” he said. “People are comfortable with the technology now, which makes this opportunity available.”

 Sessions include:

  • Shooting an Elephant,” with McFarland from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16. Author George Orwell tells a story from his experiences working as an imperial policeman in the British colony of India. He talks about the antipathy between the colonized and the colonizers and how the event forced him to play a role he hated. It relates directly to the racial issues and protests, and the roles into which they force protesters and police.

Contact McFarland at for the Zoom link and a copy of the article.

  • The Plague, by Albert Camus, facilitated by Bain-Selbo from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday, October 12, This is the first of eight sessions discussing the novel, which speaks directly to the difficult social and ethical problems faced during the coronavirus pandemic. Discussion of Part One will continue on October 14. Discussion of Part Two and Three is November 16 and 18, Part Four is November 20 and December 2, and concluding with Part Five December 7 and 9.

There are only five slots available for each day, so anyone interested must contact Bain-Selbo at  to get the Zoom link. Participants must purchase the book or obtain from a library on their own. 

  • George Orwell’s articles “Notes on Nationalism” and “What is Fascism?” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Monday, October 26. The first article seeks to define nationalism in contrast to patriotism and the second article the elusive and constantly misused term fascism. Both relate to national identities and discourses a week and a day before the U.S. presidential election. For a link to the Zoom meeting, and copies of the articles, contact McFarland at
  • “Power, Role Reversals, and Social Structure” film study with Stouse from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Monday, November 2. Students and guests will share their perspectives and discuss the topic in relation to the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938) and the film noir Sunset Boulevard ​​(1950). Both films feature strong female leads who use money and other means to exert power and control over the men in their lives–contrary to the social structure of their times. Have our expectations evolved to the point where concepts of power, roles, and societal structure are no longer so rigidly defined today? Contact Stouse at for a Zoom link. Participants are expected to watch the films on their own in advance of the class session.
  • Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. on Monday, November 30. Join Stouse and her students for a discussion of the 1937 novel, which depicts the journey of a Black woman’s life as she is forced into marriage at a young age, kept in a second marriage by societal expectation and fear and the promise of opportunity, and finally fulfilled by a third marriage to a man considered unacceptable for her. Janie is familiar with being “the outlier”– Black, female, too intelligent for her time, reluctant to conform, always seeking an equal status. As we trace her journey, we will contemplate the idea of what happens if we do not also become “outliers” in some manner and define ourselves beyond others’ expectations. Contact Stouse for a Zoom link at Participants should obtain and read the novel on their own before the class.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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