Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

D.W. Griffith's Biograph Shorts: Teaching History with Early Silent Films, 1908-1922
by Smith, Jaclyn A., M.A., The University of Toledo, 2007, 158; 10835958
Abstract (Summary)

D.W. Griffith capitalized upon already existing theories and social positions in order to present audiences with entertaining plots and dramatic antagonists. Often these subjects consisted of individuals that were potentially marketable regarding public opinion and sensationalism, allowing him to make a name for himself in the film world as a source of artistic and technical innovations. Perhaps known best for his controversial film, Birth of a Nation, he has been applauded and crucified by modern historians and analysts regarding his creative practices and basically, spread of racial stereotypes to early film audiences. The denigration of his work by modern scholars lies mainly within the characters and racial tensions that were perpetuated on-screen as a result of his conceptual character options. However, in many of his early films that were produced at the Biograph Company, Griffith initiated exposure for gender, racial and ethnic groups that were largely ignored and propelled these issues to the forefront of the public eye. Griffith should be celebrated as a filmmaker that used controversy to provoke thought regarding issues of race, class and gender, and certainly his other films have the teaching capability that Birth of a Nation is commonly utilized for. There are several other pieces that were produced by Griffith that are symbolic of public attitudes and accurate representation of society near the turn of the twentieth century. These works should be celebrated as primary resource materials, and therefore used in classrooms to teach political, racial and social issues to students that wish to study such concepts. The evidence for this theory lies not only in his films, but in the behind-the-scenes production occurrences, character references, personal anecdotes and various current and past media sources. The documentation that will be employed in order to support this thesis follow in the form of original film reviews, newspaper articles detailing public reaction, governmental law, biographical and autobiographical information, periodicals, essays and finally this author's examination of the gender, moral, racially and ethnically based films released under D.W. Griffith from 1908 to 1919 that have survived through documentation or independently.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Britton, Diane
School: The University of Toledo
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: MAI 57/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: History
Keywords: Biograph, Films, Griffith, History, Shorts, Silent, Teaching
Publication Number: 10835958
ISBN: 978-0-355-97104-0
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