Hamilton: A Musical About A Scholar

How does a bastard, orphan / son of a whore and a Scotsman / dropped into the middle of a / forgotten spot in the Caribbean / by Providence, impoverished, in squalor / grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

I was a little late to Hamilton, but yesterday I was listening to a seminar paper and when the author quoted Jefferson, I suddenly had visions of the purple suited Daveed Diggs dancing in my mind. It was particularly ironic since the paper was about the representation of whiteness.

However, that’s not the object of this post – although I am awfully excited about what the hit musical means in terms of representation. No, apart from Lee’s “I’m a general – whee!”, my favourite Hamilton line identifies the founding father as a hero and a scholar. How often do we see academics as the object of a musical? Not enough! And that it comes just as the 44th President becomes the first to publish an academic paper is extra sweet. To me, the most exciting aspect of being an academic is the intellectual adventure. To see that intellectual adventure as the subject of a musical is amazing. There may be some duelling, the occasional stealing of a canon, but what drives Hamilton in the musical is his scholarship and writing. Indeed, writing is the core of the show: the letters, the essays, the words upon which the nation was established.

Today I spotted an interview (Kris Vire in Time Out, Sept. 7 2016) with Lin-Manual Miranda where he says: “And we don’t think of writers as action figures, right? We think of action figures as action figures; we think of soldiers, we think of sports stars. But this is a guy who wrote three lifetimes’ worth of work, and that is really both what got him success and also what got him into trouble. The fact that this guy couldn’t stop writing, as both his biggest strength and his biggest flaw, is the other exciting thing about him.”

Writers are people of action. It takes courage to write, to submit, to publish, to put oneself out in the arena of publish opinion armed simply with ideas.

Writers are action figures.


Incidentally, I’m really looking forward to seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work with Disney. If you haven’t seen it yet, do have a look at his takeover of Disney’s Instagram. I’m a particular fan of his Gaston!