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“What’d I Miss?” Historians, Hamilton, and Fanfic

by Jacqueline Langholtz, Manager of School and Group Programs, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello on

If you’re like me, your personal Facebook wall is pretty much exclusively re-posts of Hamilton-related news, videos (Did you see the “Hamilton Tickets are Better than a Baby” one?) and other forms of shameless devotion to the show.  It’s embarrassing, and I catch plenty of flak for my constant evangelizing, but at least it keeps me from posting about politics and inviting all kinds of trouble.  What I mean to say is Hamilton is something we can ALL agree on – right?

Well, not so fast. The show has its critics, and I’m not just talking about the New Yorker’s tepid-at-best review of it last year. (Can you believe that hasn’t been permanently deleted from the internet? #woops)

I’m talking about this month’s article in Vox Culture where writer Aja Romano explores the mixed reception Hamilton has received among historians. “Fans know exactly what Hamilton is about,” she writes, “Why don’t historians?”   She argues that the question of historical authenticity is “a derailment of the argument Hamilton is making,” reminding us that the show is “fanfic” – or fan fiction:

Miranda’s musical is fanfic — that is, it’s literally a creative text written by a fan that reinterprets or expands upon a previously existing source material, or canon. More specifically, Hamilton is a fanfic of Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, and more generally of US history itself.

There’s no shortage of insightful writing in and about Hamilton the Musical (check my Facebook wall if you don’t believe me). But if you work at a museum or historic site and are wondering if you should make time for just one more, I’ll quote the show’s poetically pompous Thomas Jefferson and recommend: “Actually, I woooooould.” Read the full article here.

Langholtz.HamiltonPhotos

Jacqueline Langholtz is the Manager of School & Group Programs at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. She hates to brag, but she GOT TO MEET LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, CHRISTOPHER JACKSON, DAVEED DIGGS, AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CAST WHEN SHE SAW HAMILTON. AND SHE MADE LIN LAUGH!!

One Response to ““What’d I Miss?” Historians, Hamilton, and Fanfic”

  1. August 17, 2016 at 8:32 pm, Getting Schooled in History Relevance by Hamilton | AASLH Blogs said:

    […] but most agree that the history presented in Hamilton is pretty good (although some called it fanfic). The National Council on Public History recently published articles and reviews of the play by […]

    Reply

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