'Who Tells Your Story?': Narrative Theory, Public Memory, and the Hamilton Phenomenon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical Hamilton has been unprecedented. Hamilton tells the story of the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, a founding father who, until recently, was often forgotten in American public memory. Miranda's unique musical, which fuses an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century story with contemporary music and text, features actors of various races and genders in order to tell the story of 'America then' by and for 'America now'. Through a close textual analysis of the musical's script, cast recording, and sheet music, Valerie Lynn Schrader uses narrative theory to explore how Hamilton creates public memory of one of the lesserknown US founding fathers. She argues that, through the narrative paradigm, Hamilton creates what narrative theorist Walter Fisher refers to as 'public moral argument',1 through which audience members can discern life lessons, or 'equipment for living',2 for their own lives. Finally, the article suggests that the rhetorical theory of Burkean identification may play a role in how public memory of Hamilton's story is formed and how audience members learn life lessons from the musical. Valerie Lynn Schrader is Associate Professor of Communications Arts and Sciences at the Schuylkill Campus of the Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on rhetorical messages in theatre works, especially musical theatre productions. She is herself a classically trained lyric soprano/soubrette.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-274
Number of pages14
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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