Profiles

This year, seven new faculty members will join Bread Loaf for its 2015 session. Several indulged us in extended interviews; you'll find their responses below, following their profiles. 

Helen Barr, fellow and tutor in English at Lady Margaret Hall and Lecturer and tutorial fellow at the University of Oxford, brings her expertise in the medieval and early modern period to the Bread Loaf/Oxford campus this summer, teaching “Shakespeare’s Comedies.” Her latest book, Transporting Chaucer (Manchester University Press, 2014) explores the consequences of encountering Chaucer between late medieval poetry and early modern drama. She is also the author of Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England (Oxford University Press, 2001), critical editions of poems in the Piers Plowman Tradition (Everyman, 1993) and The Digby Lyrics (University of Exeter Press, 2010). Her current research continues to focus on exchanges between late medieval writers and early modern literature alongside diversions into queer blood and the literary fortunes of Kent. Barr is eager to share conversations on Shakespeare and beyond with Bread Loaf students—whom she has heard “on good authority” are intellectually excited and curious.


Ana Castillo, novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, playwright, translator and editor, will share her innumerable talents with Bread Loafers in New Mexico this summer. A pioneer of Chicana literature, her award-winning novels and poetry collections include So Far from God, The Guardians, Peel My Love Like an Onion, Sapagonia and I Ask the Impossible. Next year, her nonfiction Swimming with Sharks: A Mother’s and Son’s Urban Life Stories will be published by the Feminist Press. The Before Columbus Foundation presented Castillo with its American Book Award for her first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters. She has also earned the Carl Sandburg Award as well as fellowships in fiction and poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Castillo edits La Tolteca, an arts and literary journal dedicated to the advancement of a world without borders or censorship. Castillo has been the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Visiting Scholar at MIT from 2007-2008 and currently serves as the Lund-Gill Endowed Chair at Dominican University, Illinois. This summer, she will teach a workshop on creative nonfiction ranging from the personal essay to in-depth journalism.

BL: Your course promises to cover a wide range of nonfiction genres, and you have published in similarly diverse arenas. What type of writing do you most enjoy: novels, magazines, newspaper articles, radio segments, literary journals?

AC: Fiction comes a bit easier. All writing takes work. I’m presently working on a book of personal/memoir essays. For the first time I feel I have finally begun to feel comfortable with that form and I am enjoying it.

BL: You visited Bread Loaf’s New Mexico campus in 2012 as a special guest speaker. Are you looking forward to returning as a faculty member?

AC: I have a home in southern New Mexico and feel very close to the culture. I indeed anticipate working and interacting with both students and faculty. I will be reading with Simon Ortiz, my new colleague, there, which I look forward to, also.


Lyndon J. Dominique, assistant professor of English at Lehigh University, specializes in 18th-century literature and issues related to critical race studies, colonialism and transatlanticism, gender, and social justice. He received his BA with honors from The University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and his PhD from Princeton University. He is the editor of the anonymously published 1808 novel The Woman of Colour (Broadview Press, 2007) and author of a monograph, Imoinda’s Shade: Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, 1759-1808 (Ohio State University Press, 2012). Currently, he is working on a book about the concept and narrative forms of social justice peculiar to literature written in 18th-century Britain. His 2015 course at Bread Loaf/Vermont, “Writing for a Cause in 18th-Century British Literature,” wrestles with social paradoxes of imperial England and its literature and explores questions such as “How did writers of this time espouse the national ideal of freedom in an empire dedicated to slavery?” and “Does the free love movement of the 1960s owe its genesis to a text about sexual freedom banned in 1748?”


Cora Kaplan, Honorary Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London and Professor Emerita of English at Southampton University, joins the Bread Loaf/Oxford faculty this summer, teaching a course that synthesizes the study of Victorian and neo-Victorian texts and films in an exploration of the enduring appeal of 19th-century British culture. The course is a natural choice for the feminist cultural critic and theorist whose work focuses on questions of aesthetics and politics in Victorian women’s writing and in fiction and film of the last 50 years. Kaplan first combined these issues in Sea Changes: Essays on Culture and Feminism (Verso, 1986), and her most recent book, Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism (Edinburgh University Press and Columbia University Press, 2007) continues this work. She is the general editor, with Jennie Batchelor, of a new 10-part series, The History of British Women’s Writing (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010 and following). Although her research concentrates on British literature, she is no stranger to the United States. She was a member of the English Department at Rutgers University from 1988-1995, where she directed the Institute for Research on Women between 1992 and 1995. Her current project illuminates racial thinking and representation in 19th-century Britain.

BL: Why are we in the modern world so obsessed with the Victorian?

CK: I think in the United States and Great Britain the nineteenth century is seen by many people as the origin of both the good and bad things about western modernity.  We still profit from its technological and scientific advances, take enormous pleasure from its cultural achievements, but we are the legatees also of its imperial ambitions and crimes and its domestic hierarchies of race and class. Our relationship to it remains radically unresolved. This rich, contradictory heritage has become a complex resource for writers, artists and filmmakers.

BL: Your course investigates several iconic Victorian texts alongside modern re-envisionings or reinterpretations of those texts. How did you select your course text list? In other words, how did you pare it down?

CK: With difficulty is the short answer. I thought that within the confines of a relatively brief course it would be the most fun and the most interesting to deal with Victorian texts and authors that have had an enduring twentieth and twenty-first century afterlife. Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, for example, continue to fascinate new generations of readers, and their neo-Victorian revisionings and reinterpretations  have attracted our most gifted writers and artists whose work with these texts simultaneously pays tribute to  their brilliance while confronting their difficulties. I hope the course will give students an appetite for exploring more of the neo-Victorian. 

BL: Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Jane Eyre?

CK: I don't. I think it has been an extraordinary difficult novel to adapt for the screen, partly because of the modern problem of how to present Rochester's mad wife, Bertha Mason—a grotesque figure with whom the novel itself has no sympathy.  It’s hard also for commercial cinema not to make Jane into a more conventional heroine.  That's why I want us to think about artist Paula Rego's interpretation, which emphasises the novel's own play with the gothic and brings out and expands the novel's darker, more sadistic elements.

BL: Would you describe your current research?

CK: While I continue to research the neo-Victorian, my main project is a book on race and representation in 19th-century Britain.  It explores the key role of  racial thinking,  both in the run up to and aftermath of the abolition of slavery in 1834. I look at fine art, fiction, poetry, journalism, political polemic, anti-slavery pamphlets and popular science through the work of  Charlotte Brontë, Dinah Mulock Craik, Thomas Carlyle, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Knox, Harriet Martineau, William Mulready and William Wordsworth. 

BL: You’ve taught in both America and the UK. This summer at Oxford, you’ll be teaching predominantly Americans in the UK. Is that part of what drew you to teach at Bread Loaf?

CK: Absolutely. As a long time American resident in Britain who has moved back and forth across the Atlantic, I've always enjoyed the challenge of teaching British literature and culture to Americans and, conversely, American literature and culture to the British. As I've found from living here, a shared language and literary canon can obscure important – and fascinating – differences in history and culture.

BL: What are you most looking forward to this summer?

CK: I'm excited by the prospect of working intensively with a small group of students, always the most productive and satisfying kind of teaching. This is a brand new course I've devised, and I'm anticipating that we can together develop an agenda that suits the interests of everyone. Oxford itself, ancient and modern, will provide a provocative setting for our intellectual encounters between past and present.


Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of California, Los Angeles Rachel Lee will teach a course at Bread Loaf/Vermont focusing on techno-orientalism (Asian as a mark for advanced technology) and Asian diasporic portraits of our super-connected planet. The course covers novels, poetry, short stories, and critical essays. Specializing in Asian American literature, performance culture, and gender and sexuality studies, Lee is the author of The Americas of Asian American Literature: Gendered Fictions of Nation and Transnation (Princeton University Press, 1999) and The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosociality, and Posthuman Ecologies (NYU Press, 2014). She is the editor of The Routledge Companion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature (Taylor Francis, 2014) and co-editor (with Sau-ling Cynthia Wong) of Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace (Routledge University Press, 2003). Lee is also director of the Center for Women at UCLA.

BL: What are you looking forward to this summer?

RL: Having lived in the (sub)urban sprawl of Los Angeles for the last fifteen years, my family and I are looking forward to a summer sojourn in eastern Vermont. We've heard so much about the creative and intimate community at Bread Loaf-- we're eager to experience it.  In terms of teaching, my Middlebury students and I will be exploring the balance between discovery, experimentation, and ethics raised by novelists, poets, and essayists with regard to biological engineering and scientific manipulations of life itself. Around whose future is a more progressive vision of tomorrow shaped?  Perhaps this summer's theme will be experimentation overall, in pedagogy as much as in daily living. 


Gwyneth Lewis, the first National Poet of Wales, has penned eight books of poetry in Welsh and English, from Parables & Faxes in 1995 (Bloodaxe Books) to her most recent Sparrow Tree (Bloodaxe Books, 2011). Her book Two in a Boat–The True Story of a Marital Rite of Passage (Fourth Estate, 2005) describes her journey from Cardiff to North Africa in a small sailboat with her husband. A writer of nonfiction, memoirs, libretti, and chamber operas, Lewis will teach workshops in both poetry and creative nonfiction for Bread Loaf/Vermont’s 2015 session. As a Harkness Fellow, Lewis studied at Columbia and Harvard before returning to Cardiff to work as documentary producer and director for BBC Wales. She has been recognized as a National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts Fellow; a Mildred Londa Wiseman Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University; and a Joint Sica/Stanford Humanities Center Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. In 2014, she served as the Bain-Swiggett Visiting Lecturer in Poetry and English at Princeton University.

BL: Which language is more descriptive, Welsh or English? And in which language do you prefer to write?

GL: Because both languages have different histories, they're good at different areas of experience. It's easier to be lyrical in Welsh, I think. I have to admit to a preference to my first language but I'm pretty besotted with English.

BL: You’ve been described as a promoter of the preservation of Welsh language, culture, and literature. What do you see as the most powerful way to defend their preservation?

GL: The best way to preserve a language is to make children! Failing that, I think that any individual language is at the mercy of forces far greater than the individual, and so not in his or her control. I think that loving a language is the best way to pass on its joy.

BL: Can you briefly describe one of your most memorable productions for the BBC?

GL: I did an hour-long production about Country & Western fans in Wales. I even found a real-life "Witchita linesman" and sent a cameraman up an electricity pylon to watch him work.

BL: When you set off in a sailboat to North Africa, did you know you would write a book about the experience, or did the compulsion to tell your story come afterwards?

GL: I did have a contract for the book. When everything went so spectacularly wrong, my editor told me, sheepishly, "It will be good for the book."

BL: Would you share with us your thoughts about joining the Bread Loaf faculty this summer?

GL: I'm thrilled, have wanted to be at Bread Loaf for decades, but never had the chance. I can't wait.


A specialist in American literature, particularly African American and Southern literatures, University of Oxford Associate Professor of English Lloyd Pratt will teach the “The American Novel after 1945” at Bread Loaf/Oxford this summer. Pratt taught at Brown, Harvard, Yale, and Michigan State before joining the Oxford faculty as university lecturer in American Literature four years ago. He has been a Mellon Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellow and NEMLA Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society. He served on the Modern Language Association’s Division Executive Committee on Nineteenth-Century American Literature and in 2013 received MLA’s Foerster Prize for his essay “‘I Am a Stranger with Thee’: Frederick Douglass and Recognition after 1845.” In 2010, Pratt was elected to the American Antiquarian Society, and in 2014 appointed to the editorial board of American Literature and the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College. He is the author of Archives of American Time: Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010) and the forthcoming The Strangers Book: The Human of an African American Literature (University of Pennsylvania Press).

BL: What is your definition of a novel?

LP: Novels are a collaboration between writers and their readers--an imagined space that we inhabit together. I have been thinking about this question quite a bit lately. A former Oxford graduate student of mine, Andrew Lanham, who is now at Yale doing his PhD, has written about the way that novels help readers to rebuild their worlds. That sounds right to me. We all live in worlds that seem to have been taken apart over the past half century. The novel as a genre of literature is often interested in helping us to put those worlds back together again. I should say though that novels can also be coercive: sometimes you find yourself in a world that you never really wanted to inhabit. That's why it's so important to be aware of the collaboration going on between writer and reader. A novelist can set the conditions of possibility that allow us to imagine a particular world, but she cannot force us to imagine it exactly as she wishes. At the end of the day, the world a novel creates is as much ours as it is the novelist's. It’s important to be sure that the world we create together is a world worth having.

BL: What do you mean by the concept of “play” as a concern of late 20th-century novels?

LP: I was thinking about the way that certain novelists, such as Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo or Haruki Murakami, lead us into a world of blind alleys and labyrinthine roundabouts. We find ourselves trying to work out where we belong in those worlds, which engenders a sense of life as characterised by play rather than rigid structure. The floor drops out from beneath us, the sky opens onto a second sky that we didn't know existed, the birds that were singing turn out to be human voices in disguise. Like child's play, though, the play in these novels can easily shift from being fun to being confusing or emotionally demanding. I suppose one way of saying it is that play is not all fun and games. It is those things but it is also something more profound and morally significant. Something that we have a responsibility to acknowledge when we are engaged in it.

BL: Who do you see as some of the most important contemporary American novelists?

LP: Can I rephrase the question to focus on the most important contemporary American novelists to me at this moment in my life? If that's the question, then I would probably say Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee, and Edward P. Jones. I've been reading and teaching all three for some time now, but I'm still working through what I think and feel about their novels. All three seem so deeply aware of the American and World traditions in literature; all three manage to be morally and politically thoughtful novelists without being moralizing. It's quite a tightrope they manage to walk, and they do so with skill and grace.

BL: What attracted you to Bread Loaf?

LP: Bread Loaf is a storied institution known for bright students, energetic conversation, and intellectual intensity. I jumped at the opportunity when I was offered the chance to work in this environment. It's an honour to join a roster of such distinguished faculty.

BL: What are you most looking forward to this summer?

LP: I thrive on one-to-one and group conversations with students. It's a cliché to say so, but I find working with eager students to be intellectually sustaining and uplifting. A couple of years ago I was doing a tutorial on Faulkner with an Oxford undergraduate. I've been teaching Faulkner for almost twenty years, but my conversations with this student opened up a whole new world of thought to me. There is always at least one moment like that in any term and usually more than one. As much as I like when those moments happen to me, I'm even more delighted when I see them happening to students.