Despite its cultural significance, The Birth of a Nation is not widely taught in humanities courses to which it is relevant -- film surveys, American history, Southern culture, African-American studies. In part, this absence is to the difficulty of teaching the film to undergraduates; understanding the film's cinematic and historical significance requires both a working understanding of representational methods in film and a large amount of contextualization. Developing this knowledge base requires more time than instructors can usually allot to a single text in an undergraduate survey course. Similarly, comprehending why the film had the historical impact it did is almost impossible without some familiarity with how silent film conveys its message.
|The multimedia format of Griffith In Context reverses many of the difficulties associated with teaching The Birth of a Nation. The CD handles the challenge of contextualizing the film by providing a means for students, outside of classtime, to develop their understanding of the film's cultural context. Students can engage with the CD prior to seeing the film so that they have a framework in which to situate the text. They also can use the CD subsequently to review representative scenes and important issues, to investigate primary and secondary research material, and to experiment with editing techniques. Instructors can also use modules of the CD in class to help them illustrate lecture points about specific technical or contextual issues.|
|The multimedia format of Griffith in Context is integral to its function as humanities learning tool. In addition to storing large amounts of information, the CD's structure and interface help model assumptions that are difficult to teach through class lecture and discussion. Hypermedia links, for example, graphically situate the film within a discursive context; by exploring these links, students begin to see that the film's significance lies not so much in the film itself than in the nexus of cultural associations that surround the film. In other words, exploring the CD can help students see how the meaning of the film is contextually constructed.|