Whose Woods These Are

The Bread Loaf School of English, established in 1920 as a degree-granting, strictly summertime, graduate program of Vermont’s Middlebury College, is held annually on an extensive resort property near Ripton, Vermont, close to Bread Loaf Mountain some ten miles southeast of Middlebury. Because the facility was not used for the entire summer, its use was extended by making it the site of the Writers’ Conference, run every August since 1926.

In tracing the history of the conference, this handsome, oversized volume, meticulously researched and excellently written, adds important pages to the annals of American literary history. It details the founding, operation, and sometimes byzantine politics of administering the conference.

The Bread Loaf property, bequeathed to Middlebury College by Joseph Battell, who originally ran it as a summer resort, has been visited by an impressive faculty of literary luminaries: Robert Frost, Archibald MacLeish, Truman Capote, Richard Wright, William Gass, Pearl Buck, Sinclair Lewis, Eudora Welty, Richard Wilbur, Stanley Elkin, and others too numerous to mention. The fledgling writers who attend the conference are selected on the basis of a portfolio of writing they have submitted. Many participants have established themselves as writers of note.

Robert Frost, long associated with the conference, bought a farm adjacent to its site. On his death, it reverted to Middlebury College for use by both the School of English and the Writers’ Conference.

This book’s implications far exceed the narrow limits of a single writers’ conference. They offer unique insights into how gifted writers work together to promote each others’ creative processes.