Student Life

“The book inspired me to follow my own heart a little more and figure out what I want to do in life.” — Natalie Parker, Class of 2019

“Community Read gave me a social environment in which to start conversations and build friendships.” — Tristan Sommerville, Class of 2020

“Being able to get together with my peers and talk about the project was a lot of fun!” — Tony Camisi, Class of 2019

Summer Community Read

The Summer Community Read program, offered only at ASU’s West campus, offers incoming freshman students an opportunity to connect with their fellow students and the community through a shared reading over the summer months.

Founded in 2012, the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences’ Community Read program has attracted authors such as Ernest Cline (“Ready Player One”), Adam Braun (“Promise of a Pencil”), and Allison Bechdel (“Fun Home”) to ASU’s West campus. Students are asked to read the shared text, and then create a personal response to articulate the emotions and ideas the text instilled in them. These projects can take the form of poems, artistic expressions, musical acts, essays, and videos.

The student responses are then shared in a showcase event prior to a keynote speech from the author of the shared text. This allows West campus freshman students, who come from all over the world, to have a shared experience that bonds them in the critical first few months of college.

The 2017 Summer Community Read program features the Broadway smash-hit “Hamilton: The Revolution” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Information on the keynote speech and student showcase will be released soon.

Below is a guide created by Marlene Tromp, former Dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and Vice Provost of ASU’s West campus, to support students and the community in attaining greater understanding of the themes present in the novel.

RSVP

Introduction

Introduction

Guide Questions for "Hamilton: The Revolution" by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
By Marlene Tromp, Dean of New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and Vice Provost of West Campus

These sections are roughly broken up into the stages of Freytag’s pyramid, the phases of classical dramatic structure (for plays, movies, or TV shows, both comedies and dramas). It isn’t a hard and fast guideline, but a way of understanding some of the basic structures of the play.  The terms of Freytag’s pyramid are in boldface.  These questions are intended to guide you and support you as you read the book.  Your instructor may use these questions to inquire into the text in class.

You can listen to the soundtrack on YouTube, if you want to hear the songs sung by the original Broadway cast.

Exposition

Exposition

As you begin to read [Exposition: you get the background, meet the characters]

  • What does Hamilton, the musical, have in common the American Revolution itself?
  • What does it mean, politically and/or socially, to tell the “right story at the right time” (15)?
  • What is your “shot” (26)?  How do you want to change your life? your country? your world?
  • How does Hamilton suggest that it changes your perception to speak more than one language (English, Spanish, French, Mandarin…or even things like mathematics or music)?  Would you add anything else?
  • Why was it important to Lin-Manuel Miranda, a playwright and composer, that “historians … take [his production] seriously” (32)?
  • What is the role of art in telling the story of our history (or our present moment)?

Rising Action

Rising Action

As you progress through the story (of the musical and the creators’ development of the musical) and things become more complex [Rising Action:  events build]

  • What does it mean, in the context of Hamilton, that the race of the actors doesn’t match the race of the historical figures?  How would it change the musical or our understanding of it if a someone played a part in which his or her gender was changed? 
  • How does it impact the themes of Hamilton to emphasize that Hamilton was an immigrant? a New Yorker?
  • Did Hamilton challenge/transform/inform your perception of any of the historical figures about which you had learned in school, like Washington or Jefferson? How so?
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda drew on hip-hop, rap, R&B, and musical theater to create Hamilton.  If you wrote a musical about your life, what kind of music would appear in its soundtrack?
  • What role did revision and the study of history play in the creation of Hamilton and its success?

What is the significance of Hamilton’s romances in the musical?  Why spend time on these?  What do they suggest in the play?

Climax

Climax

As the production reaches some of it most tense moments [Climax:  turning points that change the protagonist’s fate; may be multiple climax points that introduce new tensions or challenges]

  • The “true lesson” of the American Revolution, according to Hamilton:  The Revolution, is that “The past places no absolute limit on the future.  Even the unlikeliest changes can occur” (88).  If you could ignore all the critics, what audacious creation would you make?
  • Why stage this as a sung-through musical—all sung lyrics, all verse, unbroken by spoken dialogue—rather than staging some/all of it as a dialogue?
  • What are other instances in which who “told the story” have shaped how we understood history and what does this suggest about the history/the stories itself?
  • What are the contemporary practices that are like the early American duel and are they more or less violent than dueling?
  • If mistakes and failures are inevitable in anything that is truly new (125), what should that mean for your college education?  for your life?
  • What is the significance of telling us that Jay Duckworth staged the musical with attention to the “tiniest, least visible props” (133)?  What does attention to details mean for you in your life?

Falling Action

Falling Action

As tensions abate (through good or ill) [Falling Action], the story is resolved and the fate of the characters is finally known [Denouement]:

  • What does Hamilton suggest to us, in our current political and social moment, about “supporting, inspiring, challenging, and correcting each other” (136)?  Why stage conflicts in government as rap battles? 
  • Does Hamilton: The Revolution suggest that greatness is something that we are born with or something for which we work?  What do you believe about achieving greatness?
  • What does the musical suggest about the meaning of war? 
  • Does Hamilton make being an American seem more honorable or less so?
  • Hamilton:  The Revolution suggests that “the American Revolution was a writers’ revolution, that the founders created the nation one paragraph at a time” (225).  How does writing still shape our country?  Are certain kinds of writing more powerful than others?  Why?
  • Hamilton shows that our nation’s history has been marked by pitched political conflict from the beginning.  Can you read Hamilton as commenting upon contemporary political battles?  Remember, this musical doesn’t settle for easy answers. 

Conclusion

Conclusion

As you reflect on the book as a whole:

1)    What is the “most American way” to “get to the top” (257)—Burr’s or Hamilton’s?  Why?  Why does Lin-Manuel Miranda identify with both Burr and Hamilton (264)?

2)    What do you make of the creators’ decisions about how various people die on or off stage (Washington, Phillip Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, etc.)?

3)    Do women seem strong/able in Hamilton?  Why or why not?

4)    The Epilogue of the book talks about how the message of the musical transcends political parties that we must “keep hoping and to work together” and that stories have the “power to change the world.”  Can you draw any other major themes from the book or the music?

5)    What does Hamilton inspire in you and why?

New College Students Create Masterpieces to "Ready Player One"