Hamilton: In Context

Spring 2018, Experimental College

Instructors
Dean of Student Affairs, Mary Pat McMahon and Miguel Rodriguez Santos, A18

Future sections
Potentially in spring 2019

Course catalog pitch: “. . . analyze the life story of Alexander Hamilton—immigrant, scholar, soldier, Founding Father, economist, and scoundrel. Hamilton’s unique position among the Founding Fathers rose to recent national prominence through Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical in 2015.”

On the syllabus: Each week, this course—the first at the Ex College to be cotaught by a staff member and a student—explored an aspect of either the musical or Alexander Hamilton’s life and work, or examined the roles of supporting characters such as Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and Angelica Schulyer Church. For a Patriots’ Day field trip, McMahon drove students to the Boston suburbs to watch the Lexington battle reenactment.

The more you know: “The syllabus allowed us to explore recurring, deepening themes around representation, access, race and class, privilege, and gender,” said Mary Pat McMahon. “Hamilton gave our group a really rich set of ideas that we could push back against and explore in more depth—there’s so much packed into every line and every scene. Miguel would tell you this, too, but using rap and hip hop in a Broadway play also allows you to have much deeper density of lyrics. There’s so much to unravel and unpack and understand.”  

Miguel Rodriguez Santos, meanwhile, “appreciated how we were able to dissect both sides of the early political aisle, so to speak—with me sometimes playing devil’s advocate and challenging what students had to say. Discussions contrasting early America to present-day America were particularly interesting. The animosity, bickering, and sabotage between the Founding Fathers and other early political figures made us realize that the nastiness of politics in this country, as well as certain behaviors toward certain minority groups, are not novel.”

Courtney Hollands

Courtney Hollands, deputy editor for Tufts magazines and editor of Tufts Medicine, can be reached at courtney.hollands@tufts.edu.