The Hamilton Phenomenon
Chloe Northrop (Ed.)
by Kade Ivy (University of Notre Dame)
“Hamilton: An American Musical” burst onto Broadway in 2015, just a year before the presidential election of 2016 and its aftermath forced Americans into a broad, often troubling reexamination of their history and culture. “The Hamilton Phenomenon” (Vernon Press), edited by Dr. Chloe Northrop, professor of history at Tarrant County College, is an engaging collection of essays that explore Hamilton and attempt to answer a question that Northrop asks in her introduction – “does a musical like Hamilton have a place in our current society?”
In the nine essays collected here, historians find Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton to be much more than the story of America’s Founding Fathers modernized with hip-hop music, rap lyrics, and creative casting. Just like the national conversation since 2016, Hamilton is about racism, sexism, immigration, and small-versus-big government.
Shira Lurie, Saint Mary’s University, argues that Hamilton is not “a gateway into history, but rather into historical memory.” That memory is exactly what Americans wrestle with when they argue over Confederate monuments or the roots of slavery and civil rights. Hamilton is not a work of history, per se, but an entrée into a historical era that many would ignore without the musical’s invitation. Kaitlin Tonti, Seton Hall University, argues that, “Performance makes public history accessible while encouraging reimagined forms of the stories that whitewash the past.” Indeed, Miranda seems to have written Hamilton with that purpose in mind.
Hamilton: An American Musical deserves more than a cursory viewing. The essays in The Hamilton Phenomenon show how deftly and completely the musical explores America’s complicated historical memory.
Dr. Steve Jones
Southwestern Adventist University
'The Hamilton Phenomenon' brings together a diverse group of scholars including university professors and librarians, educators at community colleges, Ph.D. candidates and independent scholars, in an exploration of the celebrated Broadway hit. When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical sensation erupted onto Broadway in 2015, scholars were underprepared for the impact the theatrical experience would have. Miranda’s use of rap, hip-hop, jazz, and Broadway show tunes provides the basis for this whirlwind showcase of America’s past through a reinterpretation of eighteenth-century history.
Bound together by their shared interest in 'Hamilton: an American Musical', the authors in this volume diverge from a common touchstone to uncover the unique moment presented by this phenomenon. The two parts of this book feature different emerging themes, ranging from the meaning of the musical on stage, to how the musical is impacting pedagogy and teaching in the 21st century. The first part places Hamilton in the history of theatrical performances of the American Revolution, compares it with other musicals, and fleshes out the significance of postcolonial studies within theatrical performances. Esteemed scholars and educators provide the basis for the second part with insights on the efficacy, benefits, and pitfalls of teaching using Hamilton. Although other scholarly works have debated the historical accuracy of Hamilton, 'The Hamilton Phenomenon' benefits from more distance from the release of the musical, as well as the dissemination of the hit through traveling productions and the summer 2020 release on Disney+. Through critically engaging with Hamilton these authors unfold new insights on early American history, pedagogy, costume, race in theatrical performances, and the role of theatre in crafting interest in history.
Introduction: From Nevis to New York
Tarrant County College
Part One: Strike the Set
Chapter 1 Dramatizing the American Revolution on the Way to Hamilton
University of Notre Dame
Chapter 2 Hamilton: An American (Psycho) Musical: Illusion and Identity in Two American Musicals
UC San Diego
Chapter 3 Hamilton and Historical Memory: An American Musical Raises the Curtain on Historical Trauma and Decolonization of American Identity
Kerry L. Goldmann
University of North Texas
Part Two: Don’t Be Shocked When Your History Book Mentions Me
Chapter 4 Hamilton and the Historical Profession
Wake Technical Community College
Chapter 5 Ladies Don’t Wear Red: Gender, Class, and Fashion in Hamilton
St. John’s University
Chapter 6 Reclaiming the Narrative: Hamilton as a Repertory Archive
Seton Hall University
Part III: “What Is a Legacy?”
Chapter 7 Who Tells Which Story? Teaching Hamilton, History, and Memory
Saint Mary’s University
Chapter 8 “In the [Class]room Where It Happens”: Hamilton Rewrites the American Literature Course
Katherine L. Curtis and Alison Tracy Hale
University of Puget Sound
Chapter 9 Thinking about “The Room Where It Happens”: Using Place to Teach about Alexander Hamilton and Early America
William & Mary
Epilogue: Hamilton and Disney
Tarrant County College
About the Authors
Chloe Northrop is a Professor of History at Tarrant County College. She received her Ph.D. in History with a Minor in Art History from the University of North Texas. Her dissertation, ‘Fashioning Creole Society in Eighteenth-Century British Jamaica’, was on the sentimental exchanges of material goods in the British Atlantic World. She has organized community programming including Holocaust speaker events, an exhibit commemorating the centennial of World War I, and hosted traveling exhibits from NEH On the Road, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and Humanities Texas. Dr. Northrop has presented on teaching and engaging with ‘Hamilton: An American Musical’ at the Society of Early Americanists, and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. She has received programming grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Humanities Texas. Her recent article, ‘Satirical Prints and Imperial Masculinity: Johnny Newcome in the West Indies’, appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of ‘Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies’.
History, English, Theatre History, Pedagogy, Literature, Education