‘The plan is to fan this spark into a flame’: A Literary and Historical Approach to Teaching the Contemporary Musical Hamilton in High School English Classrooms

Date

2023

Authors

Baldwin, Elise

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Worldwide access

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Abstract

The high school English curriculum is currently constrained by literature that often lacks diversity, cultural and social significance, and artistic merit. The underutilized genre of musical theatre offers significant opportunity for students to engage with the written, aural, and visual components of a show. Contemporary musicals aim to break the bounds of theatre arts inviting reflection and conversation surrounding new, and sometimes controversial, themes. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical (2015) re-mythologizes the American story proving its worth as dramatic literature for use in the classroom through its inspiration towards inclusion, emphasis on the power of the written word, and complex characterization. By merging hip-hop, musical theatre, and history, Miranda is able to appeal to a wide audience while challenging what we know about history and storytelling. This thesis explores the history of the musical genre and argues for the integration of musical theatre within English classrooms as a form of dramatic literature through the use of Miranda’s Hamilton as an example, by way of sample course curriculum designed around the show.

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