Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2001 Newsletter

Mellon Fellows

Portrait of James Joyce

Desmond Harmsworth,
Portrait of James Joyce,
no date. Ink on paper.
Ransom Center Art Collection.
Photo by Pete Smith.
The portrait is part of this spring’s
exhibition, Semblance: A Portrait Sampler
at the Leeds Gallery.

Claire Culleton

Claire Culleton

Promoting scholarship is an indispensable part of the Ransom Center’s mission. Through its Research Fellowship Program, the Center annually supports the work of nearly thirty scholars.  The program has grown dramatically in recent years, with a record number of fellowships awarded in 1999-2000. This success is in large part due to the generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Major Mellon Foundation grants in the 1990s allowed for an increase in the number of fellows, length of residencies, and stipend amount.  Mellon Fellows at the Ransom Center have ranged from some of the most acclaimed scholars to some of the most promising.

Claire Culleton

In 1991, in what she describes as an inspired whim, Claire Culleton wrote to the FBI requesting access to the agencies’ files on James Joyce.  The response stunned her—the Bureau was processing and responding to thousands of Joyce inquires and would send her the files in due course.  That turned out to be four years later. 

With the dossier finally in hand (though much remained blacked out), Culleton, a Professor of English at Kent State University, authored “Joyce and the G-Men,” published in volume 32 of the James Joyce Quarterly.  Examining J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in Joyce, Culleton suggests that the notorious Bureau chief saw the Irish wordsmith as embodying the eroticism, anti-authoritarianism, and vulgar experimentation with form then associated with modernism. 

Her interest in the FBI’s intrigue laden relationship with literary modernism piqued, Culleton soon expanded her project into a book-length manuscript.  Anti-Intellectualism, American Politics, and the Radical Literary Left, under contract with St. Martin’s Press, argues that modern literature “was a particular lightning rod for the anti-intellectual movement, and it exacerbated Hoover’s anxiety more than other twentieth-century art forms.

While a Mellon fellow at the Ransom Center, Culleton conducted research crucial to Anti-Intellectualism and its thesis. She studied the papers of Morris Ernst, who defended Random House in the1933 Ulysses obscenity case and served as head of the American Civil Liberties Union before, oddly enough, serving as Hoover’s personal lawyer. She also pored over the Center’s outstanding collection of modernist literary and political magazines and examined the Joyce library.

Anti-Intellectualism< will be Culleton’s second book with St. Martin’s, who recently published Working-Class Culture, Women, and Britain, 1914-1921, her study of gender and British working-class culture during the First World War.  “I almost felt coddled while at the Ransom Center,” says Culleton who expressed her gratitude to the Mellon Foundation and the Ransom Center.  “The Center’s collections are truly amazing. I could hardly have wished for a more productive visit.”

--David Bryce

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