In Spring 2018, students in English 698 “Capstone: Hamilton” began an online resource to accompany the musical Hamilton, so others can have information about the musical and its themes. Another set of students in English 695 “Hamilton in Context” continued the project in Fall 2019.

Students chose from a list of over 100 people, places, or cultural references that appear in the musical Hamilton, and they followed the directions and expectations in the assignment below:

This assignment will ask you demonstrate a range of skills which connect to the learning outcomes for the course. As for Paper #1, you’ll be looking closely at how a particular element of a text develops the text’s themes. You will also be using your research skills to demonstrate your ability to include other people’s ideas in your own writing, to locate relevant historical and cultural information, and to use those ideas for the development of your own critical analysis and argument. Essays receiving high marks will become entries for the online resource and be posted to the web site for all to read. Therefore, the audience for your paper will be our class but also anyone else who has seen or listened to Hamilton.

Your essay should accomplish three goals. It should:

    • Summarize information about the person, place, or other cultural reference, using at least four and no more than eight relevant published sources, available online or from print periodicals or books.
    • Develop a “close reading” of the scene(s) in which the person, place, or other cultural reference appears: What does its appearance mean for our interpretation of that scene, that narrative moment, that character’s speech?
    • Argue for the significance of this person, place, or other cultural reference to a theme of the musical as a whole: How does its appearance help to develop that theme of Hamilton?

Your thesis will make a claim about how the person, place, or other cultural reference is significant to the development of a theme in Hamilton, identifying the theme(s) in the thesis claim as well.  The body of your essay will use the researched information, the musical, and your analytical skills to support the thesis claim.

Many thanks to the students who brought such energy, insight, and acumen to their projects and to our class discussions. Their work offers a glimpse into the complex cultural nexus that creates Hamilton: An American Musical.

— Karin Westman, Associate Professor/Department Head, English, Kansas State University | Site Editor