‘Poison to the infant, but tonic to the man
Timing The Birth of a Nation
in Medieval film
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This chapter focuses on a conjunction of contemporary ideas concerning nation, history and race, all of which, participated in popular and academic constructions of the medieval. As well as causing political controversy from the moment of its release, D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation was hailed as a milestone in cinema history. Endorsed on a political level by President Woodrow Wilson, whose scholarship on the American Civil War was explicitly referenced in the film's intertitles, it was also praised by film critics and viewers alike for its innovative style and use of technology. Cinematic medievalism participated in and drew on a wider cultural and political preoccupation with the Middle Ages. In popular culture the Middle Ages were often imagined in a spectacular mode, a mode they shared with 'historical realism' and cinematic technology.


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