A Brief History of the Bread Loaf School of English

old photo of Bread Loaf Inn

The central location for the Bread Loaf School of English is the campus located outside Middlebury, in sight of Bread Loaf Mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The original mountain and forest area in which the School of English is located was willed to Middlebury College in 1915 by Joseph Battell, a Middlebury businessman, Middlebury College student, and major benefactor. Middlebury established the School in 1919 to provide graduate education in the fields of English and American literature, public speaking, creative writing, dramatic production, and the teaching of English. The first summer session ran in 1920.

Frost and Doc Cook

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost was closely involved with the school during its first half-century, coming first in 1921 and returning for 42 years. His influence is still felt, in part because Middlebury College owns and maintains the Robert Frost Farm as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus.

Bread Loaf Today

Until 1978, the Bread Loaf School of English was located only on the Vermont campus. In that year, however, the School spread to a second summer campus, at Lincoln College, one of the smallest and most beautiful of the colleges at the University of Oxford. At Lincoln College, Bread Loaf classes are run on the Oxford system, in which small seminars are coupled with independent tutorials. A great number of the Bread Loaf/Oxford faculty members are drawn from the faculty of the University of Oxford itself.

In 1991, Bread Loaf, seeking to extend its national presence beyond New England, sought out a distant spot for a second U.S. campus, in New Mexico. Since 1991, the Bread Loaf School has resided in several sites in northern New Mexico. The chief of these has been St. John's College in Santa Fe, where Bread Loaf/New Mexico was founded and where it offers its courses today. Bread Loaf's New Mexico curriculum offers some courses particularly relevant to its Southwestern location—for example, courses in Latinx, American West, and Indigenous literatures.

Over the years, Bread Loaf has held campuses in other sites, in an effort to gain diversity of various sorts and to serve the needs of teachers from across the U.S. and around the world. For nine years, Bread Loaf had a summer presence at the campus of the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau and for eight years, a program in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bread Loaf also experimented with a program in Mexico, at the Universidad de Guadalajara.