Death of Joycean Claire Culleton, 61

Claire Culleton

By Ray O'Hanlon

The Irish literature community in the United States suffered a significant loss with the recent death of Claire Culleton, professor of English at Kent State University in Ohio for thirty years.

She was just 61 and had suffered from a brief illness. Her passing was not Covid-19 related.

Culleton was an outstanding teacher and academic having received her undergraduate degree at Manhattan College, her Masters degree from the University of Tennessee, and her Ph.D. from the University of Miami.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

According to her obituary, "Claire had a passion for many things such as baking and cooking, painting, music, and of course, 20th Century Irish, British, and American literature and culture."

She authored and co-authored six books, was awarded career teaching awards, fellowship and research awards, and had lectured around the world.

Culleton was the president of the International James Joyce Foundation at the time of her passing.

It was in the context of Joyce that Claire Culleton and the Irish Echo crossed paths. She was researching a book entitled "Joyce and the G-Men" and had filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI to secure any and all files that the bureau had on the Irish writer.

She received a file, a big one. But it was not on James Joyce. Rather, it was a file on the Irish labor leader James Larkin and his campaigning in America during and after World War I, a mission which would ultimately lead to Larkin's imprisonment in several New York penitentiaries, including Sing Sing.

The file revealed an alleged plot to poison Larkin and included in its pages were the names of some very prominent Irish and American leaders at the time.

The discovery was an unexpected treasure trove, but one that, crucially, was delivered into the hands of someone who immediately recognized its historic value. And that someone was Claire Culleton, the devoted Ohio Joycean.

The story that emerged from Claire's unexpected find can be found on the Echo's website. May she rest in peace.