2014 Summer Session Summaries

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Santa Fe
Cheryl Glenn, On-site Director

Within our first week, we welcomed Dennis Bega, acting head of rural outreach for the U.S. Department of Education, to discuss prominent issues in rural education. Alfredo Luján accompanied student volunteers to Galisteo, where they made adobe bricks. And we held our first dance, preceded by an outdoor concert by New Mexico’s first all-female mariachi band.

The following weeks brought us Luci Tapahanso, poet laureate of the Navajo Nation; Bruce Smith’s pre-opera lecture on Carmen; a river-rafting trip on the Rio Chama; and a gathering at Ojo Caliente. Former president of NCTE Kylene Beers spoke on the intersecting issues of testing and teaching, slampoet and social-justice activist Myrlin Hepworth gave a spectacular performance, and we hosted an event featuring local writers.

We held our senior reception at the breathtaking Inn of the Turquoise Bear, where each of the seniors was lauded by a favorite professor. Students in Ruth Forman’s seminar recited their poetry, and Duckie Brewer coordinated a student performance of creative work.

At graduation, a crowd of nearly 150 sat on the brick plaza in the early morning sun, while 15 students received master’s degrees. Lise Johnson’s opening remarks invoked the striking New Mexico landscape as inspiration for students’ own inner wildness. Jon Olson’s commencement address called upon all writers, teachers, and peer tutors to write through the dance of discourse. Professor Jeff Nunokawa closed the ceremony. The day was sunny, bright, and gentle as we concluded what surely must have been the best Bread Loaf Santa Fe summer yet!

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Oxford
Emma Smith, On-site Director

Sitting in the early evening sun in the 17th-century Convocation House and listening to Dr. Rebecca Beasley analyze modernism via a Matisse portrait; debating the characterization of Jason in a modernized Medea at London’s National Theatre; hearing poet Jamie McKendrick read new, raw work on his father’s recent death: these are some of the abiding moments of a busy and successful Oxford summer.

Our large cohort read their way through everything from John Donne to Zadie Smith, wrote their own poetry in an informal writers’ workshop, and read Joyce aloud in Deep Hall. Students established themselves in the reading rooms of the Bodleian library, in coffee shops, and on Facebook and Flickr. Many wrote papers on an extraordinary range of topics, from ekphrasis to printing errors, and from narrative voice to landscape. 

We also welcomed the city of Oxford laureate Kate Clanchy for an inspiring seminar on teaching creative writing. Professor Fiona Macintosh introduced Medea; David Schalkwyk talked about love and identity in Shakespeare in the debating chamber of the Oxford Union. Printer Paul Nash gave a master class in hand-press printing. Our graduating class of 22 seniors organized a commencement ceremony involving a welcome by Stefano Evangelista, an address by Jeri Johnson, and speeches by all three class presidents.

As enlightening and inspiring though these group events were, Bread Loaf Oxford is best expressed in individual intellectual experiences. Seeing people develop their ideas, take themselves seriously as thinkers, and stretch their academic muscles has been a great privilege.

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Vermont
Emily Bartels, Director

In Vermont, 249 students gathered to read, learn, write, invent, and imagine, with 30 faculty leading the way. The curriculum was perhaps our most diverse ever, and the co-curricular programs followed suit, with new courses on critical, digital, and non-fiction writing; on theories of experience, disorder, and black cultural performance; and on fiction from Chaucer to Defoe.

Elizabeth Drew Lecturer Jamaica Kincaid spoke to a packed and engaged house. Distinguished faculty writers – Paul Muldoon, Tracy Smith, Robert Sullivan – shared their work in poetry, memoir, and creative nonfiction. On Fridays, faculty and guests held workshops on everything from revising prose to documentary film making. On weekends, students set off on school-sponsored hikes and swims at favorite sites such as Silver Lake, Bristol Falls, and Mount Abe. BLTN sponsored events to engage us in talk about teaching. Together students discussed digital teaching resources, created a new network for community college teachers, and hosted a screening of The Dutchman.

Professors Patricia Meyer Spacks and Michael Schoenfeldt conducted an external review, meeting with faculty, students, and staff, and attending classes and lectures. They were especially impressed by the extraordinarily high quality of the teaching and learning that they witnessed.

To cap off the summer, Brian McEleney, the new director of the theater program, led a cast of 30 students and members of the Bread Loaf acting ensemble in a powerful production of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.

Forty-seven seniors graduated, with Michael Wood giving the commencement address, and former Bread Loaf staff member Sandy LeGault serving as hooder. Former Bread Loaf faculty member and artistic director of the Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for his outstanding contributions to the world of theater. All in all, we worked hard, played hard, and came out on the other side exhausted and exhilarated.