What's Happening

bechdel_2014_for_web.jpgAlison Bechdel, celebrated cartoonist, author, and MacArthur Fellow, will visit Bread Loaf/Vermont this summer to engage in a conversation with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater, where her critically acclaimed memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) premiered as a musical in 2013. The musical adaptation of Fun Home has since moved onto Broadway, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Perhaps best known for her award-winning syndicate Dykes to Watch Out For, Bechdel’s comics have appeared in the New Yorker, Slate, McSweeney’s, the New York Times Book Review, and Granta as well as a number of collected volumes including The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). In her own words, Bechdel describes how she got started in the comics business:

I had a series of boring, awful office jobs after I got out of college in 1981, and to while away the time I wrote letters to a friend who was still in school. One day I drew a picture in the margin of a deranged naked woman holding a coffee pot, and called it, “Marianne, dissatisfied with the breakfast brew. Dykes To Watch Out For, Plate no. 27.” Then I drew some more deranged women doing different things, in hopes that one day I really would rack up twenty-seven of them. Then a friend suggested that I try to get one into the feminist newspaper where we volunteered, and my first one was published in June of 1983. Over the next couple of years I started doing multi-panel strips instead of single-panel drawings with a caption. And eventually I got some papers to actually pay me for them. Then more papers. Then in 1986 Firebrand Books published a collection, and continued publishing a book every couple of years. Then in 1990 I quit my day job.

In 2008 Bechdel suspended work on Dykes to Watch Out For, which had run for 25 years, to devote her time to a second memoir, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama (Mariner, 2012). The New York Times Book Review praised the book for delivering “lightning bolts of revelation, maps of insight and visual snapshots of family entanglements in a singularly beautiful style.”

The MacArthur Foundation citation for Bechdel’s 2014 fellowship award credits her with “changing our notions of the contemporary memoir and expanding the expressive potential of the graphic form.”

Bechdel’s conversation, Bread Loaf’s 2016 Elizabeth Drew Memorial event, will take place during the summer session at Bread Loaf’s Ripton campus.


mckibben_nancy_battaglia_2009Acclaimed author and environmental activist Bill McKibben will speak at Bread Loaf/Vermont this summer. A founder of 350.org, McKibben won the 2014 Right Livelihood Prize for his grassroots efforts to counter the threat of global climate change. In 2011, 350.org spearheaded resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was rejected in 2015 by President Obama. From his seminal 1989 book The End of Nature (Anchor) to his most recent Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist (St. Martin’s Press, 2014), McKibben has written over a dozen books on topics from global warming to genetic engineering. He also contributes frequently to National Geographic, the New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Peace Award, and the namesake for a newly discovered species of woodland gnat, the Megophthalmidia mckibbeni.

Former Bread Loaf faculty member Lucy Maddox will revisit the Vermont campus this summer to discuss her new book, The Parker Sisters: A Border Kidnapping (Temple University Press, 2016). In The Parker Sisters, Maddox connects the 1851 abductions of two young free black women from farms in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to the wider consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act for Pennsylvania-Maryland border communities and the nation. Publishers Weekly praises Maddox for “dramatically render[ing] the subsequent legal trials in thrilling detail, yet never los[ing] sight of the kidnappings’ historical importance in the deep divisions among Americans regarding slavery and abolition.” Professor Emerita of English and American studies at Georgetown University, Maddox is also the author of Citizen Indians: Native American Intellectuals, Race, and Reform (Cornell University Press, 2006), Removals: Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the Politics of Indian Affairs (Oxford University Press, 1991), and Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998). She taught at Bread Loaf for 25 summers between 1980 and 2010 at the Vermont, New Mexico, and Alaska campuses.

Bread Loaf will have three faculty as its new campus heads this summer. The New Mexico campus will be co-directed by Lars Engle and Holly Laird, and Jeri Johnson will take the helm as head tutor at Oxford. Engle, the James G. Watson Professor in English at the University of Tulsa, joined the Bread Loaf faculty in 1999 and has taught courses in medieval and early modern literature at a number of our campuses: Vermont, New Mexico, Oxford, North Carolina, and Alaska. In addition to serving as a director in Santa Fe, he will teach King Arthur: Chivalric Romance, Chrétien to Malory. Laird, professor of English and codirector of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Tulsa, has taught at Bread Loaf since 1999–in Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, and Oxford—running courses most recently in theory and modernist comedy. At the University of Oxford, Johnson serves as sub-rector and Peter Thompson Fellow in English at Exeter College. She brings a wealth of experience to her new post in this, her 21st summer at Bread Loaf/Oxford, where she will also teach her perennially popular course on James Joyce.