Guided by Renaissance scholar and Princeton faculty member Russ Leo, three intrepid Princeton students—Sara Krolewski, Sarah Baber, and Miles Carey—attended the Princeton-Bread Loaf Summer Study in Oxford for six weeks.
As part of the program, each student took a challenging graduate-level course with a member of the Bread Loaf faculty: Baber studied Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and the importance of Troy in Middle English; Krolewski, the career of the American Novel after 1945; and Carey, competing theories of waste and its “aesthetic management” in contemporary contexts.
In addition to their Bread Loaf coursework, students took a research seminar with Russ Leo, designed to introduce rising seniors to the methods, challenges, and rewards of independent archival research. Guiding students in the development of their senior thesis topics, the proseminar began with a discussion of Michel Foucault’s signal 1969 lecture, “What Is an Author?” With Foucault’s questions concerning meaning and authority in mind, the Princeton cohort proceeded to explore the rich resources of the Bodleian Library, fleshing out their thesis bibliographies with rare books and manuscripts from the exhaustive Oxford collections.
But the Bread Loaf experience is far more than coursework. Indeed, one of the most unique and invigorating aspects of the program is the sense of intellectual community and camaraderie that develops among the students, sharing meals in Lincoln College like Thomas More’s noble Utopians, working together in the magnificent College Library and in the surrounding coffee houses and pubs. Here our stellar cohort reflected often on the different histories and trajectories of Anglophone literature as well as the enduring questions that draw diverse students of the humanities together. They developed thesis proposals together, sharing ideas and sources, seizing the opportunity for collective work and thought.
The group duly took advantage of the amazing intellectual resources at hand in Oxford and England at large, taking a research trip to the British Library as well as to the Weston Library at the Bodleian, where they were treated to an exciting presentation on the Modernist manuscript archive—a collection that includes T. S. Eliot’s hand-written copy of The Waste Land as well as the playwright Alan Bennett’s eclectic collection of toys, notes, and objects donated to the Library. Not only has the Bread Loaf program afforded these students the opportunity to study with exemplary scholars in the heart of Oxford, it has also enabled them to develop compelling theses and to build an intellectual community that will undoubtedly persist in Oxford, Princeton, and beyond.