The Oxford ReLit Summer School is an intensive exploration of the power and therapeutic value of literature and the other arts. The theme for 2018 is “The Green Life of Change: Artists, Writers and Appreciators.”


The Course

The Oxford ReLit Summer School is an intensive exploration of the power and therapeutic value of literature and the other arts. 

The 2018 Summer School will run from Monday 6th August – Monday 13th August. 

The theme for 2018 is “The Green Life of Change: Artists, Writers and Appreciators”

“Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.” Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Oscar Wilde knew firsthand the ache of confinement. He mourned a life outside of Nature and wrote encomiums of praise for her democratizing power, as well as for her capacity to protect, inspire and restore. Nature, in Wilde’s sense, is an artist whose talents are expansive. Those who seek a fuller life often retreat to open and wide-ranging spaces, to a place beyond the authority’s walls, where “fields are fragrant, and the woods are green” (Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus). In this other realm, free from daily obligations, we might renew our sense of self.

Participants in ReLit’s 2018 Summer School will engage in a meditative process of self-revision as they dwell on artistic media dedicated to a study of the natural world. Parts of the course will be held in the beautiful grounds and gardens of Worcester College and in green spaces beyond. This transnational, transgenerational course will gather poets, writers, filmmakers, composers, singers and appreciators of all these arts to collaborate on slow readings of poetry, prose, music and the visual arts. At the heart of this course will be a series of uniquely devised sessions reflecting small, manageable components of intellectual and creative expression: lines of poetry, of lyric, of drawing, of story telling and of musical composition.

This is a week dedicated to what John Clare referred to as the green life of change. Workshops led by eminent artists, writers and scholars will purposefully focus on small units of creative and intellectual life. Our aim is to offer participants an opportunity to discover and develop aspects of individual self-expression.

“And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head”

(Tekahionwake, “The Fire Flowers”. Tekahionwake is the Mohawk name of indigenous Canadian poet, Pauline Johnson)


Course Ethos:

As an educational experience, the course emphasises collaborative conversation and cross-generational learning. The course is open to anyone from pre-university to retirement age, and we especially encourage the non-traditional student. While the course offers up some specialist materials, each session is run in such a way that participants can interact immediately and openly with the materials in front of them without any prior specialist knowledge.

All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks | Are life eternal: and in silence they | Speak happiness beyond the reach of books; |There’s nothing mortal in them; their decay |Is the green life of change; to pass away | And come again in blooms revivified. (John Clare, “All Nature Has a Feeling”)