RIPTON, Vt.-On August 8 at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf mountain campus, the Bread Loaf School of English completed its 90th summer with commencement ceremonies, during which 39 students received master’s degrees.

The speaker at the Saturday night event-selected as always by the graduating “seniors”-was Isobel Armstrong, a longtime and distinguished member of the Bread Loaf faculty. Recently elected as Fellow of the British Academy, she is an Emeritus Professor of English, Geoffrey Tillotson Chair, and Fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London.

Andrea Lunsford and John Elder, acting directors of the Bread Loaf School of English, introduced Armstrong on Saturday night, observing that she has brought “both depth and a gusty freshness of perspective to her courses at the School of English for 18 summers.” Those courses include Romantic poetry and 19th-century fiction. They added, “Isobel Armstrong has always been especially happy that her first professorial chair was at Birkbeck College of the University of London, a college dedicated to educating working people who could only take classes at night. She loved the transformational power of this college, the way it changed lives not just in external ways but also by deepening students’ understanding of life. Her love for Bread Loaf comes in part from the fact that, here too, we teach people who are often in the midst of their professional and family lives; the age range of our students at Bread Loaf is also quite similar to that at Birkbeck College.”

Armstrong spoke that night about the voices of the Bread Loaf summer and the sense of community that grows from this multitude of perspectives and the shared love of literature at Bread Loaf.

The “hooders,” who add the master’s hood to each graduate’s academic regalia during the ceremony, are also picked by the senior class, and this year they choose two members of the Bread Loaf community: Karen Browne, who works year-round in the Bread Loaf office, and Kalli Federhofer, a former exchange student from Mainz, Germany, and a Bread Loaf graduate himself, who works at the front desk of the Bread Loaf Inn during the summer session. The degrees were conferred by Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz.

Forty-nine students (12 in absentia) at the Vermont campus earned master’s degrees in English (the M.A.), while two earned a master’s of letters (M.Litt.) degree-a more specialized degree for which the M.A. in English is a pre-requisite.

Earlier in the day, the Bread Loaf campus at Oxford in England conferred 18 master’s degrees; five were awarded at the campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 22; and 13 at the Asheville, North Carolina, campus on July 29. The total for the summer at the four Bread Loaf School of English campuses was 85 M.A.’s and two M.Litt.’s.

- Words by Sandy LeGault, M.A. Bread Loaf ‘87;
photo by Tom Brant ‘10

About the Bread Loaf School of English
Since 1920. the Bread Loaf School of English has offered a rich array of graduate courses in literature, the teaching of writing, creative writing, and theater to students from across the United States. For six weeks each summer Bread Loaf students, most of them secondary-school teachers, work toward an M.A. or M.Litt. and study with a world-class faculty at one of our four sites: New Mexico, North Carolina, Oxford (England), and the home campus located outside Middlebury at the foot of Bread Loaf Mountain in Vermont.