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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, October 14, 2016

Law Profs At Chicago, Harvard And Michigan Turn To 'Hamilton' As A Teaching Tool

Hamilton 3Continuing my obsession with interest in Hamilton (links below):  National Law Journal, Law Profs Turn to Hamilton (Yes, the Musical) as Teaching Tool:

What can law students learn from the hit musical “Hamilton”?  Quite a bit, according to University of Chicago Law School Professor Will Baude, who made the musical’s recent arrival in the Windy City the centerpiece of his welcome address to new law students last month.

No, dueling is not a great idea. But the Tony Award-winning show, which follows the life of Founding Father and real-life lawyer Alexander Hamilton, offers three life lessons for aspiring attorneys, Baude said last month. It illustrates the value of challenging conventional wisdom; the importance of friendships and personal connections in one’s career; and the utility of viewing the law as a separate world—not just as a tool to achieve certain outcomes.

Baude is one of a growing number of legal academics bringing “Hamilton” into the classroom, questioning the accuracy of Hamilton’s pop-culture portrayal, and mining the show for context on modern-day politics. ... Here is a sampling of how other law professors [Annette Gordon-Reed (Hatvard) (Hamilton: The Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers), Richard Primus (Michigan) (Will Lin-Manuel Miranda Transform the Supreme Court?), Laurence Tribe (Harvard) (Hamilton Takes Harvard)] are bringing “Hamilton” into their teaching and writing.

The New York Times has a gripping piece on the influence of the play on the artistic director of the theater: ‘Hamilton’ and Heartache: Living the Unimaginable:

Oskar Eustis ...  the exuberant 58-year-old artistic director of the Public Theater [is] arguably the most admired theater executive in the country. ...

His 16-year-old son, Jack, took his own life nearly two years ago. Now, Mr. Eustis, with his family, faces the kind of soul-searching for which there can be no preparation. How to hold on and move forward at the same time. What it means to be a public figure with a private grief. How he thinks about the work he does and the shows he sees. ...

An MP3 arrived by email, hours after Jack’s death. It came from Lin-Manuel Miranda, a new arrival to the Public fold.

It was a demo recording of “It’s Quiet Uptown,” the song from “Hamilton” describing Alexander Hamilton, and his wife, Eliza, as they grieve the death of their 19-year-old son, Philip:

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down.

The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable ...

If you see him in the street, walking by her
Side, talking by her side, have pity ...
He is trying to do the unimaginable
See them walking in the park, long after dark
Taking in the sights of the city ...
They are trying to do the unimaginable

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand

It’s quiet uptown

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
If you see him in the street, walking by her
Side, talking by her side, have pity
They are going through the unimaginable

“There is nothing you can say,” Mr. Miranda recalled thinking. “And yet, I had a song about this. So I wrote to him saying, ‘If this is useful, then lean on it, and, if not, delete this email.’”

Mr. Eustis and his wife found it useful. “Every line of ‘Quiet Uptown’ feels like it’s exactly correct to my experience,” Mr. Eustis said. “It was the only music we listened to for a long time, and we listened to it every day, and it became a key thing for the two of us.”

There is a part of “Hamilton” that Mr. Eustis still finds unbearable, in the opening number, when a rapid description of Alexander Hamilton’s childhood includes the lyric “Moved in with a cousin, the cousin committed suicide,” which is choreographed with a brief pantomime of the death. “From the moment it happened in rehearsal, I’ve turned away,” he said. “I’ve never looked at it.”

But Mr. Eustis and Mr. Miranda both recall something else, too: The grieving father’s reaction to a line of comic relief that, in the show’s libretto, is uttered by Thomas Jefferson immediately after “It’s Quiet Uptown”: “Can we get back to politics?”

“For me, the beautiful thing about ‘Quiet Uptown’ is, it serves a ritualistic function — it takes us into the grief, and then it takes us out of it,” Mr. Eustis said. “And there’s nothing, there’s no other ritual that I know of, that can do that for me.”

Prior TaxProf Blog posts:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/10/law-profs-at-chicago-harvard-and-michigan-turn-to-hamilton-as-a-teaching-tool.html

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Comments

Yes, assigning a play written by a non-lawyer with no legal training (or any graduate training, let alone in history or the social sciences) is totally an appropriate assignment for law students at the University of Chicago. Yep. In no way is this absurd, particularly in light of Chicago's $89,700 annual cost of attendance.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 14, 2016 11:08:17 PM