Who we are
ReLit is the brainchild of authors Paula Byrne and Jonathan Bate. Our mission is to practise and research Bibliotherapy, the ancient art of book-healing. Two and a half thousand years ago, Aeschylus, the father of dramatic literature, claimed that “words are the physicians of a mind diseased.” We invite you to join us on the journey to discover whether you, your loved ones, and others going through life’s difficult times can be relit by the best words that have been written through the ages by the best authors.
Paula has taught English and Drama at school, further education and university levels. She has written several bestselling biographies, including The Real Jane Austen, Belle: The True Story behind the Movie and Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead. She now divides her time between writing (her most recent books are the international bestseller Kick: The True Story of JFK's Forgotten Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth and a novel, Look to your Wife) and her role as Founder and Lead Practitioner of ReLit. Her website is www.paulabyrne.com
Jonathan is a well-known literary scholar (jonathanbate.com). The author of many books on Shakespeare, his biography of the poet John Clare won Britain's two oldest literary awards, the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. His most recent book is a biography of Ted Hughes that was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and chosen as one of the "best biographies of 2015" by seven national newspapers. He has a longstanding interest in literature and mental health and, once he finishes his current book (William Wordsworth: A Revolutionary Life), he will turn to a project provisionally called The Black Dog: Dr Johnson's Prescription for Melancholy. A selection of Jonathan's poems is to be published in 2017, with author royalties donated to the work of ReLit: to pledge for a copy, go to The Shepherd's Hut.
Andrew is our lead medical practitioner. A busy GP in an inner city practice in the NHS, he also teaches doctors and medical students. He has always loved reading (and occasionally writing) poetry – often to escape the pressures of work. An insomniac, he does most of his reading between the hours of one and three a.m. You can read about his The Poetry of Medicine project at this website
Dr Sally Bayley is a Teaching and Research Fellow at Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute. She has published two books on Sylvia Plath, Eye Rhymes: the Art of the Visual (OUP, 2007), and a study of Plath as a cultural icon, Representing Sylvia Plath (CUP, 2011). She has also completed a study of domesticity in American literature and culture, taking Emily Dickinson and Bob Dylan as her leads: Home on the Horizon, America’s Search for Space (Peter Lang, 2010). Her latest project, The Private Life of the Diary (Unbound, 2016), tells the story of the diary as a coming of age story by diary writing, and mixes memoir with narrative non-fiction. Sally is now completing a literary memoir for HarperCollins which tells the story of her young life, growing up in an all female, charismatic household, through reading.
Rachael completed her undergraduate degree at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, graduating with first class honours in English Literature. She spent a year working at the University of Warwick, on the first run of ReLit's online course Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing, before studying for an MSt in English, 1550-1700, at St John's College, Oxford. Now a DPhil candidate at Oxford, working on theories of genre in pre-Shakespearean drama, Rachael monitors the ReLit email account and updates the main and Summer School websites.
Dr Jennifer Wild is a consultant clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Oxford. Her area of expertise is in treatment development and evaluation, specifically, the research and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder. Jennifer has developed brief interventions to modify predictors of risk to protect emergency workers from developing PTSD and depression. She regularly appears in the media giving expert advice on trauma-related problems. The documentary, Vertigo Road Trip, in which she treats five people with severe height anxiety, aired on BBC One, attracting 2.2 million viewers.
Dr Julie Sutherland is the International Ambassador for ReLit. She also offers professional editing, writing and teaching services through her company In Other Words – Language Animation Services, which is based in Ontario, Canada. Her writing commissions include two online, upper-level Shakespeare modules for Athabasca University in Canada and a week-long course for children on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, requested by the EDventure Society in Cape Breton. She is also the contributing editor to Broadview Press’s most recent edition of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (2014). With degrees in English literature and drama, Dr Sutherland is intensely interested in the capacity of literature—both read and in performance—to effect change in the human spirit. She regularly supports initiatives to destigmatise mental illness and promote mental wellness in the communities in which she lives.
We acknowledge with gratitude a start-up grant from the Tedworth Charitable Trust, the donation of a judge's fee from the Booker Prize Foundation, the huge contribution of the Warwick Business School (via its superb e-learning team) in creating our online course Literature and Mental Health, the generous contribution of Agile Collective to the development of our website, and the contributions - some large, some small, but all deeply appreciated - of individual donors.