Special Course Options

Independent Reading Projects

The Independent Reading Project (IRP) allows students a unique opportunity to pursue sustained research and writing independently across the academic year and, under faculty supervision, the following summer.

  • The topic is proposed by the student and must be an extension and intensification of work in a field the student has studied and, shown good understanding of, in a Bread Loaf course; the student must have earned an A- or higher in that course.
  • The reading and research must approximate what is ordinarily in a Bread Loaf course, in scope and nature, and may include or cross any of the disciplines—literature, pedagogy, creative writing—that the Bread Loaf curriculum covers. Pedagogical projects may draw on BLTN or other classroom initiatives as the subject of the IRP and may include lesson plans in an appendix to the final project, but the centerpiece of the IRP must be pedagogical or curricular research, presented in an analytic essay. (For theater arts projects, see Independent Summer Projects in Theater Arts.)
  • The IRP will culminate in a critical essay or creative portfolio of roughly 8000 words.
  • MLitt students may use the IRP as the culminating project for their degree (Degree Programs: MLitt project).

Faculty serve as advisors to the IRP in two capacities: in consulting with the student on the initial proposal and in advising the student as he or she brings the project to completion. To take on one role is not necessarily to take on the other.

Consulting on the proposal

  • Ordinarily, but not necessarily, the faculty advisor will have taught the student in the course on which the IRP builds.
  • The student is asked to produce a proposal of 1–2 pages that consists of a description of the topic, key questions, and approach to be pursued; explanation of how the project builds on Bread Loaf course work; and a full bibliography of primary and secondary texts to be explored. The faculty member will steer the work and suggest bibliography but is neither expected nor encouraged to design the project.
  • For creative writing projects, students must include with their proposal a 10–15-page creative writing sample in the relevant genre(s). We ask that faculty vet the writing carefully to make sure that the student has the skill to benefit from working on the writing across the academic year without structured supervision or feedback.
  • The faculty advisor must approve and sign the final version of proposal, which is due on the final day of classes: we tell students to give faculty 5–7 days to vet the proposal (and, where applicable, the creative writing sample). We ask faculty to approve only those proposals that are adequately focused, grounded, and detailed. All proposals will be reviewed in the fall by the associate director. Every year, a few underworked proposals must be sent back to the drawing board.

Advising the project

  • Faculty will be contacted by the associate director in March re advising an IRP in their fields. Faculty who agree to sign on will be sent the student’s first polished (not "rough") project draft and asked to submit comments on the work to the office within a month. The office will route these comments then to the student. Faculty who prefer to contact the student directly may do so, but should copy the office in on the initial correspondence.
  • The student will submit a revised draft of the project to the faculty advisor on the first day of classes.
  • The student and the IRP advisor will meet in the first week of the session to create an agenda for the completion of the work, setting a schedule for meetings and due dates of subsequent drafts. IRPs must be completed by the last day of classes, but are usually finished sooner.
  • Once the written project is completed, the IRP advisor will assign the project a letter grade and submit a narrative evaluation of the project on the Student Evaluation Form, due at the latest with other class grades and evaluations.

Independent Summer Projects in Theater Arts

Students who would like to pursue independent study in the field of theater arts and whose projects require completion on site (for demonstration of directing, acting, or such) may design an Independent Summer Project (ISP). As with the IRP, the topic of the ISP will be designed and proposed by the student and must be grounded on a course (ordinarily in theater arts) in which the student has earned an A- or higher. It should carry the weight, in research and execution, of a regular Bread Loaf course. Ordinarily, the ISP will be undertaken at a Bread Loaf campus where courses in theater arts are being offered.
The process is as follows:

  • Students planning to pursue an ISP will consult with appropriate faculty in advance (the summer prior) on the design of the project and the work to be done during the academic year and during the summer. In most cases, that faculty member will serve as the project advisor.
  • Students will submit a 1–2-page proposal detailing the course of study to the Bread Loaf office by February 15 prior to the summer in which the project will be undertaken. The Bread Loaf director will forward the proposal to the director of the Bread Loaf program in theater and the project advisor.
  • During the summer, the advisor will consult with the student on the project, due before the final class day, and will assess the final performance, submitting both a letter grade and a narrative Student Evaluation to the Bread Loaf office.

Oxford Independent Tutorials

The Oxford Independent Tutorial (OIT) is a one-unit course of independent study, designed and undertaken by a student at the Oxford campus, under the supervision of a faculty member there.

  • The reading, writing, and research of the OIT should approximate in nature and scope a one-unit Bread Loaf course; the topic must be in a field covered by the Bread Loaf Oxford curriculum and faculty. Students will undertake the work independently through the summer, under the supervision of a faculty advisor.
  • Students interested in pursuing an OIT must submit a 1–2-page prospectus to the Bread Loaf office; the Bread Loaf director will review the prospectus and, if it seems viable, route it to an appropriate faculty member in the field, enlisting him or her to serve as the tutorial advisor.
  • When the Oxford session begins, the student will meet with the advisor to set up a schedule of meetings and requirements, to extend across the full session.
  • The advisor will set the terms of the tutorial meetings as well as of the final project. Ordinarily the OIT focuses on and culminates in a critical essay of roughly 6,000 words. The majority of the student’s work is to be independent: faculty are not expected to run the tutorial as a class.
  • Once the project is completed, the advisor will assign the work a letter grade and submit a narrative Student Evaluation of the work with other grades.