Mary Cappello’s Lecture, first in the Undelivered Lectures series from Transit Books, explores the art of the lecture in new ways, prioritizing energy, creativity, and the true joy of learning.
Expanded from one of her own lectures on the subject of lecturing, this book dives into the history of the format and some of its greatest practitioners—Virginia Woolf, Mary Ruefle, James Baldwin—to conclude that the potential of the lecture form far exceeds its historical standing as a system of one-sided information delivery. As a teacher of poetry, Cappello brings lyricism, joyfulness, and passion to her subject , calling attention both to academic rigor and play—equally important parts of the ideal lecture. Kirkus calls Cappello’s book “a lively and playful challenge to resuscitate a form that has been considered all but dead.”
In this interview, Cappello discusses the origins of her book in her resistance to the power dynamics kept in place by the lecture format, and the necessity of becoming active rather than passive learners. She mentions a favorite recent lecture and meditates on the factors that so often stop people from asking questions. Cappello proposes ways in which the lecture and the Socratic method align and ultimately alights on the notion of “a deeply inspiring and engaged Q&A.”