Composing Empire and Revolution

Fall 2018
Molly Slavin
ENGL 1101

In the exuberant Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton musical, the American Revolution is re-imagined as a modern hip-hop rebellion against the stodgy, Beatles-esque musical stylings of the British Empire. Led by “young, scrappy, and hungry” Alexander Hamilton, the upstart crew of young friends – Hamilton, John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and the Marquis de Lafayette – lead a revolution against the confused and vain King George. The victory is presented as a joyful one – “We won! We won! We won! WE WON!” – and the losers as desperate and confused old men, mourning the fact that “oceans rise, empires fall.” Though Lin-Manuel Miranda deserves a great deal of credit for composing his worldwide phenomenon, it’s important to realize his work builds on the shoulders of previous portrayals of empire and revolution. In this class, we will study compositions of empire and revolution in the forms of history, literature, podcasts, film, and music in order to understand rhetorical devices such as argument, genre, audience, arrangement, evidence and support, and revision. You will create compositions of your own that respond to and interrogate existing arguments and conversations, finishing off the semester with a final portfolio that showcases your own ability as a writer and composer of texts. Along the way, we will continually think about and discuss how these revolutions, as well as a revolution of your own choosing, either create or do not create sustainable communities. What is often overlooked in the creation of a new society, and how do these elements hinder the sustainability and equity of a new community? We will think about these questions and examine sustainable communities through economic, ecological, political, and literary lenses.

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