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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Brainwashing a smart topic for honors talk


    The Honors College SmartTalks series of discussions kick off this semester with a visiting English professor and an overlap between science and literature in “The Science, Politics, and Cinema of Brainwashing.”

    The SmartTalks series is a collection of discussions between faculty and interested students involved with the Honors College in various ways.

    “Students have an opportunity to hear what’s happening maybe in their area of interest or maybe way further away from what they’re primarily focused on,” said Karna Walter, assistant dean for student engagement in the Honors College. 

    Scott Selisker is a visiting assistant professor at the UA in the English department who will be hosting the first SmartTalk of the semester. Selisker has been at the UA for two years. While putting together the SmartTalk series schedule toward the end of last semester, some of his colleagues in the English department suggested him to Walter as a potential host.

    Selisker’s research on freedom in science, politics and literature will be the basis for his talk.

    “It will be about how ideas about freedom and un-freedom are exchanged between literature, film, science and pseudoscience using the example of brainwashing,” Selisker said.

    The main ideas of his talk will stem from his book “Human Programming,” which he recently finished writing and is working on publishing. In the book, he also looks at the cohesion between these four different areas of study through the lens of brainwashing.

    He looks at the issue over several years, beginning with the Korean War and examining it through science fiction films and literature. He then discusses the famous Patty Hearst trial in the 1970s, news media of various kinds and the modern-day terrorism that our world is facing today, among other subjects.

    “[I hope the discussion] will be a good place for students both in the sciences and the humanities to think about the intersection between the way that science shapes our big ideas and the way that literature and film can shape our minds,” Selisker said.

    The SmartTalks series is a special program with a bit of history in the Honors College. Originally referred to as the Honors Forum Lunches, some form of the series has been around for over 15 years. Since the talks began, the discussions have proven to be unique in the way they are conducted and in the subject matter they cover.

    While traditional talks between faculty members and students would be set up similarly to a class lecture, a SmartTalk is actually a lunch-in setting. Usually, the talks have around 50 attendees, which include some students, several faculty members, and a handful of visitors and supporters of the college. The atmosphere of SmartTalks is tailored to be a combination of intellectual thinking and a relaxed, casual environment, as opposed to a lecture. This environment encourages interaction between students and staff that may never have had the opportunity to work together.

    “I’ve seen students get connected with faculty who become mentors to them, and that sometimes happens over one of these lunches,” Walter said.

    She and the staff members who put the SmartTalks series together try to find faculty from various disciplines with different discussions to hold in order to appeal to as many of their students’ interests as possible and provide an enjoyable, insightful experience for attendees.

    This week’s SmartTalk will be held at noon today in the Ventana Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, though it is currently past the deadline for students to register to attend. For a schedule of future SmartTalks and to register for free, visit


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