Professor inspires students and publishes books

Rebecca Mohr

English professor Claire Culleton has written four books about Irish literature. Culleton plans to take a trip to Ireland this summer. Elizabeth Myers | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Growing up in Manhattan can provide one with a distinctive background, but throw in an Irish family, parents with a sense of humor and the love of teaching, and you have Kent State English professor Claire Culleton.

“I love teaching,” Culleton said. “It’s hard work, and sometimes it doesn’t come easy, but I’m good at it.”

Culleton knows what it takes to keep her students interested.

“I try to keep my classroom fun and amusing,” she said. “I created these days called Tuesday Schmoozeday. It’s like a casual Friday where students bring in different things that remind them of the lesson, such as a CD or a cool piece of art.”

Junior English major Emily Dale Mitchell explained how Culleton’s class is different.

“I really love her classes because she teaches casually, makes all the information seem relative and makes it come alive,” she said.

Culleton also tries to make classtime fun and interactive.

“One of my strengths is a sense of humor,” she said. “I missed my calling to be a stand-up comedian.”

She said she always encourages her students to write.

“Every day, work hard and do good writing,” Culleton said. “Writing should be beautiful.”

Along with trying to get her students to be in love with their writing, Culleton pursues her own writing career.

“I have written four books,” she said. “Each book begins as a small idea, something that I just want to learn more about.”

The majority of Culleton’s writings surround a main focus on James Joyce, author of Ulysses, a novel important to modern literature.

“It wasn’t until my junior year that I read Ulysses,” Culleton said. “I had a fantastic professor, and that was when I started to get my passion for Joyce.”

Culleton’s four books are Modernism on File, Working Class Culture: Women, and Britain, Joyce and the G-Men and Names and Naming in Joyce. Another book was recently accepted and will be published in 2009.

“When I was working on Names and Naming in Joyce, I wanted to learn more about names,” Culleton explained. “I’m an identical twin, so I’ve been called the wrong name a million times.”

Writing a book can be daunting, but Culleton offers some advice.

“If you set out to write a book, read as much as you can in the topic that you have chosen,” said Culleton. “And write every day so you can become fluent in it. Get in the habit of cranking things out.”

Juggling two careers can be very difficult for some, but Culleton said she loves it.

“I see writing and teaching as all one part,” she said. “It’s different pieces of one big puzzle.”

Culleton’s students say she inspires them.

“She has influenced me by showing me that teaching a literature class is fun and interesting,” said April Brown, junior middle childhood education development major.

“My favorite part of Culleton’s classes (is) the part that she gets really excited to teach because it makes me excited to learn about it,” Mitchell said. “Her love for the material rubs off on students.”

For Culleton, the key to teaching is passion.

“If the students can see that I’m excited about it,” she said, “they get excited, too.”

Contact features correspondent Rebecca Mohr at [email protected].