The University of Rhode Island English Department’s own Professor Mary Cappello was recently awarded the Guggenheim fellowship, which will allow her to spend a year devoted to working on her upcoming book-length essay on the subject of mood.
The distinguished award is bestowed upon scholars, writers, artists and scientists throughout the United States and Canada, based on the quality of prior work and future promise.
The Fellowship program was founded in 1925 by former United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife in memory of their eldest son, John Simon Guggenheim.
Cappello explained that the application process is fairly standard, asking for narrative statements of plans and projects, a list of past publications, letters of recommendation, and samples of writing.
“Whenever applying for an award as big as this, it always seems like a long shot,” Cappello said. “Like a lot of people, I knew I was craving for time to devote to another book and so this seemed like the right time to try.”
One of 13 other creative artists who won in the non-fiction category, she will spend this upcoming academic year taking a break from teaching and instead she will spend time researching, reading, taking notes and immersing herself on the subject of moods.
“This concept of moods might sound abstract but I am often drawn to subjects that are ubiquitous and manifest themselves everywhere, every realm of experience,” Cappello said. “These are the subjects that resist definition and resist our understanding of them and they are also the thing that permeate our lives, even though we don’t know what they are.”
Not only does she wish to answer the question of what mood is, but also research sound studies and find out how sound produces mood.
She believes mood is a “vapoury” thing and is interested in inventive and innovative thinking about the idea of sound and literary acoustics manifesting itself in how one learns.
“As I did with my book ‘Awkward: A Detour,’ I want to follow mood as a language rather than a concept; I want to follow mood and see where it takes me,” Cappello said. “I can’t say that this book will have chapters because I am not sure what form this writing will take.”
She likes to think of writing as composition in the musical sense.
“I am not always able to predict how long it will take me to write, but I want this work to be spare and not have any excess to it and I am certainly not imagining this future work to be the ‘Moby Dick’ of mood,” Cappello said. “I don’t have to wait for inspiration because I am totally driven and totally inspired.”
She says she hopes for some “monkish” time because it is hard to make art in distracted places.
“I feel fortunate, surprised in the best way, and eager to dive into the work ahead of me,” Cappello said.