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Journal Article

Birth of a Medium: Dickens, Griffith, and the Advent of Sentimental Cinema

Timothy Johns
Victorian Studies
Vol. 52, No. 1, Special Issue: Papers and Responses from the Seventh Annual Conference of the North American Victorian Studies Association, held jointly with the British Association for Victorian Studies (Autumn 2009), pp. 76-85
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/vic.2009.52.1.76
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/vic.2009.52.1.76
Page Count: 10
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Birth of a Medium: Dickens, Griffith, and the Advent of Sentimental Cinema
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Abstract

Abstract The impact of Charles Dickens's storytelling upon the style of montage deployed in D. W. Griffith's films has generated a striking amount of critical attention. Not enough has been said, however, about how these advances in film form triggered a retreat in historical content. Exploring the melodramatic similarities between Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, as well as the state of cinema in the years leading up to Griffith's unsettling masterpiece, this essay suggests that the American director's appropriation of Dickensian form necessitated a sentimental, backward-looking engagement with history.

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