Students can pursue full degree programs for a Master of Arts or Master of Letters in English at Bread Loaf.

The Master of Arts Degree

The Bread Loaf MA provides a broad exposure to British, American, and world literature and allows students to select from Bread Loaf’s incomparable course offerings in these literatures, creative writing, pedagogy, and theater arts.

Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college to be eligible for admission, although we also allow exceptional undergraduates with strong backgrounds in literary study to apply for admission to Bread Loaf after the completion of three years toward their bachelor’s degree.

The master’s degree can be earned in six-week sessions over four or five summers, at least one of which must be spent in residence at the School of English in Vermont.

A Bread Loaf School of English MA is awarded by Middlebury, and Bread Loaf degree holders are Middlebury alumni.


Master’s degree candidates must complete ten units, including five distributional requirements, and receive a grade of B- or better in each. No master’s thesis is required.

Though students have 10 years to complete the degree, most take two units per summer and finish the degree in four or five summers. Each one-unit course at Bread Loaf receives the equivalent of three semester hours or 4.5 quarter hours of graduate credit.

The curriculum is divided into six groups:

  • Group 1 Writing, Pedagogy, and Literacy
  • Group 2 British Literature: Beginnings through the 17th Century
  • Group 3 British Literature: 18th Century to the Present
  • Group 4 American Literature
  • Group 5 World Literature
  • Group 6 Theater Arts

Degree candidates are required to take one unit from Group 2, one from Group 3, one from Group 4, one from Group 5, and one additional unit from any of these groups. The remaining five units are electives.

Transferring Credit

A maximum of two graduate courses (the equivalent of six semester-hour or nine quarter-hour credits) may be transferred from another institution.

The Master of Letters (MLitt) Degree

The MLitt program aims to provide students in-depth understanding of a specialized concentration within literary study and the allied areas of writing, pedagogy, and theater arts. Excellent preparation for students hoping to pursue a PhD in English, it also gives advanced students an opportunity to pursue a program of study that they can tailor to their own professional and intellectual needs.


Applicants to the MLitt program must hold a BA in any discipline and an MA in English and have an outstanding record of accomplishment in that degree program. Their graduate record and application materials will need to evidence strong skills in critical thinking and writing, as well as an ability to design and pursue focused research and writing.

Requirements (for students entering the MLitt program in summer 2024)*

To earn the MLitt, students must complete ten units of study, including seven units in a field of concentration, which the student designs in consultation with the BLSE director. In the final summer and as part of their field courses, students must also enroll in one unit of mentored independent study (MLitt Capstone) to complete a focused research and writing project in their field.

  • Students have ten years to complete the degree, though students may finish in five, taking a course load of two units per summer. To speed up the clock, with the approval of the BLSE director, students may count up to two units of graduate study from another accredited institution towards the degree. With the permission of the BLSE director, candidates with exceptional records may also take a course overload at BLSE of three units per summer.
  • Only courses in which students earn a B- or above will count towards the degree.  Students who earn a B in any course will be put on Academic Probation until their academic record improves. 
  • Students must spend at least one of their MLitt summers at Bread Loaf’s main campus in Vermont. Beyond that, they may attend any of our campuses. Or they may opt to take up to four units (including the MLitt Capstone) online.
  • Students will meet each summer (online or in person) with the BLSE director, who will guide their progress towards the degree as well as their planning for the MLitt Capstone project.

*MLitt students who entered the degree program before 2024 may opt to complete the new requirements or they may complete the degree under the prior requirements.  

The Field of Concentration

Each candidate will design and pursue a field of concentration, based on the courses offered in the BLSE curriculum. Applicants will propose a field preliminarily, and admitted students will work with the BLSE director in the initial MLitt summer to map out a program of study.

The MLitt Capstone

As part of their course load for the final summer, MLitt candidates will enroll in the MLitt Capstone at any of our campuses or online. The Capstone is a mentored independent study that will guide the research and writing for a major project in a specific area of the field. The Capstone will count as one unit of credit in the student’s selected field.   

The Project:

  • The project (roughly 7,000-8,000 words) should build on an area – an issue, approach, author, text or set of texts – drawn from one or more of the field courses and must be supported by substantial textual or contextual research (a bibliography of 25-30 entries).  
  • Though the work must demonstrate sustained critical thinking, students may pursue critical, creative, pedagogical, or a combination of approaches to the texts or topics in question.
  • As part of the Capstone requirements, students will give 10-15 minute presentations of their work at the end of the session.

The Process:

  • Students will submit drafts of their project proposals by the third week of October before the final summer, in preparation for advising meetings with the BLSE director the week after. Final proposals are due by December 5.
  • In January of the final MLitt year, students will be assigned a faculty mentor. Though most of the writing on the project will be completed during the final summer, students will meet with their advisors in January for preliminary guidance on the proposed reading and research and again in the spring, to set parameters and goals for an initial writing sample, due on the first day of the session.


Be sure to read the detailed description of the MLitt program in the Bread Loaf Handbook. If you have any questions, contact Dana Olsen or Karen Browne in the Bread Loaf office.

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