“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”: Founders Chic and Narrative Awareness in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

Abstract: With its recent addition to the streaming service Disney+, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 Broadway production Hamilton: An American Musical has once again entered cultural discourse. While lauded for its appraisal of Alexander Hamilton’s life as an immigrant’s story and as a revisualization and presumed reclamation of America’s past through the lens of an almost exclusively nonwhite cast and group of creators, the musical has also been subject to criticism. Early critics aptly categorized it as another component of Founders Chic and questioned its presumed progressive stance on history-writing in the face of its veneration of the Founding Fathers. The following paper aims to discern the musical’s awareness of its position within history through the analysis of relevant lyrics and rhetorical devices. Hamilton is thus presented as a piece of history-writing aware of the process of historical reenvisioning, carefully and individually established through its respective generational, political, and sociological ideals and identity.

Mainstream media consumption has recently been enriched by a renewed interest in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway production Hamilton: An American Musical after its distribution on digital streaming services. The 2015 musical phenomenon follows the continuing trend of cultural and creative “veneration of the Founding and Founding Fathers” (Brown, “Hamilton” 485). This appraisal has carefully framed the Founding Fathers as figures embodying ideals synonymous with the American experience and identity, namely independence, liberty, and individualism (489). In addition to its exploration (and arguably, its glorification) of the Fathers, Hamilton evokes the romanticized rags-to-riches story of Horatio Alger Jr., American exceptionalism, and the immigrant’s perspective as a basis of American history (495).

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