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Bread Loaf School of English (BLSE)

 Record Group
Identifier: F7


  • Existence: 1919

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Open for research without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish materials, contact:
Special Collections & Archives
Middlebury College
Phone: (802) 443-2387

Biographical / Historical

"Each summer the Bread Loaf School of English assembles a community of teachers and learners at three campuses (St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lincoln College, University of Oxford, in England; and the Bread Loaf Mountain campus in Vermont) for an intensive six-week course of study.

The central location for the Bread Loaf School of English is the campus located outside Middlebury, in sight of Bread Loaf Mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The original mountain and forest area in which the School of English is located was willed to Middlebury College in 1915, by Joseph Battell, a Middlebury businessman, a Middlebury College student, and major benefactor. Middlebury established the School in 1919 to provide graduate education in the fields of English and American literature, public speaking, creative writing, dramatic production, and the teaching of English. The first summer session ran in 1920.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost was closely involved with the first half-century of the school, coming first in 1921 and returning for 42 years. His influence is still felt, in part because Middlebury College owns and maintains the Robert Frost Farm as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus.

Until 1978, the Bread Loaf School of English was located only on the Vermont campus. In that year, however, the School spread to a second summer campus, at Lincoln College, one of the smallest and most beautiful of the colleges at the University of Oxford. At Lincoln College, Bread Loaf classes are run on the Oxford system, with small seminars coupled to independent tutorials. The majority of the Bread Loaf/Oxford faculty members are drawn from the faculty of the University of Oxford itself.

In 1991, Bread Loaf, seeking to extend its national presence beyond New England, sought out a distant spot for a second U.S. campus, in New Mexico. Since 1991, the Bread Loaf School has resided in several sites in northern New Mexico. The chief of these has been St. John's College in Santa Fe, where Bread Loaf/New Mexico was founded and where it offers its courses today. Bread Loaf's New Mexico curriculum offers some courses particularly relevant to its Southwestern location—for example, courses in Hispanic and Chicano literatures, the literature and films of the American West, and American Indian literature.

Over the years, Bread Loaf has experimented with campuses in other sites, in an effort to gain diversity of various sorts and to serve the needs of teachers from across the U.S. and around the world. For nine years, Bread Loaf had a summer presence at the campus of the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, and for eight years, a program in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bread Loaf also experimented with a program in Mexico, at the Universidad de Guadalajara."

Taken from the Bread Loaf School of English website.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Frost appeared annually, with few exceptions, at the Bread Loaf School of English (BLSE), beginning in 1939 after the death of his wife, Elinor, and his purchase of the Homer Noble Farm.

Frost frequently gave readings and talks at both BLSE and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (BLWC) from 1921 on. He was on the BLSE faculty in the 1920s and off and on as BLWC faculty (he loathed director John C. Farrar, according to David Bain). With Theodore Morrison as director of BLWC, Frost’s appearances dramatically increased. He ran "poetry clinics," co-teaching with Louis Untermeyer from the late 1930s through the early 1940s. Using The Crumb (the BLWC’s daily newsletter), author David H. Bain carefully documented Frost’s faculty vs. lecturer status in his history of the BLWC, Whose Woods These Are (1993).

Frost was not a founding member of the BLSE in 1920. In his book, Bread Loaf School of English: The First Fifty Years (1969), George K. Anderson identifies Wilfred E. Davison, Middlebury College Professor of American Literature and Public Speaking, as one of four men responsible for establishing the BLSE and convincing the Middlebury Board of Trustees to rescind their intent to sell the Inn in 1919. Farrar was appointed director in the winter of 1925 by Middlebury President Paul Dwight Moody. Frost supported the idea in letters to President Moody, and in subsequent years became the "godfather of Bread Loaf," through college publicist W. Storrs Lee.

Frost summered in Shaftsbury, Vermont before he began summering in Ripton, Vermont in 1939. From Shaftesbury he buried wife Elinor in nearby Bennington in 1939, and son Carol (who committed suicide) in 1940. He joined them there in 1963.


18.0 Linear Feet (18 document boxes, 8 half document boxes, 53 bound volumes)

1.25 Linear Feet (Photo Files: 2 document boxes, 1 half document box)

Language of Materials


F7 Bread Loaf School of English
Middlebury Special Collections staff
June 2016
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States