You’ve watched this scene unfold in any number of movies or TV shows set on a college campus: it’s the first day of class; our hero sits down, all ready to absorb some tasty knowledge; the professor immediately starts making all sorts of references to things he knows nothing about and dropping names he’s never heard, and everyone but our hero is nodding knowledgeably; as the scene progresses, you feel that sinking feeling as our hero realizes that he’s way out of his depth: he’s unworthy, a phony, not even a pseudo-intellectual.

That’s how I felt today, the first day of my new class (“Critical Debates in the Study of Cinema and Mass Culture”) at the U of M. The topics on the syllabus don’t actually look too bad: I can handle stuff like The Gaze and formalist narrative models. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the extent to which being surrounded by film buffs would intimidate me. Who would’ve thunk that I’m apparently the only person in the universe who’s never seen The Birds?

As long as I can avoid another stock college-movie scene — public humiliation by the professor in front of sniggering classmates — I think I’ll be ok. Maybe I can get one of those montage sequences where I learn everything there is to know in two minutes, accompanied by an inspirational James Horner score.