Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

When the Church Goes to Confession

Monday, August 20th, 2018

In 2006, The Episcopal Church issued a comprehensive, formal apology (a resolution) for its participation in the institution of slavery. They accepted full responsibility for past actions and admitted they used scripture to justify their actions. “…we express our most profound regret that (a) The Episcopal Church lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture, and (b) after slavery was formally abolished, The Episcopal Church continued for at least a century to support de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination…”

Instead of saying, “Now that we’ve discussed it and apologized, let’s never discuss it again,” they said something like, Let’s continue to uncover our transgressions (past and present) and continue to repent in order “to make a full, faithful and informed accounting of our history” and “be ‘the repairer of the breach'” (full quote below). (more…)

My Copyright Miscalculation

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Greetings ~ I know it’s been a while. I hope everyone’s summer is off to a good start. Before you read this you might want to do a quick brush up on the James Joyce erotic letter situation. Everyone good? Okay. . .

Reader Stephen from Ohio asked me the other day: “Now that it’s 2012 & the copyright has expired on the letters of James Joyce, what do you plan on doing with them?” I did say that in For the Love of Letters didn’t I? I said, “Copyright on all of James Joyce’s letters letters expires in 2012.” As it turns out, I was wrong.

If you take a look at the Cornell Copyright page, you’ll see that copyright law is very confusing. When I was writing my first book, I was under the impression that the James Joyce letters were “unpublished.” Although they were technically published in a book I thought because they weren’t meant to be published, like a novel, that they counted as unpublished works. (Unpublished works once entered the public domain 40 years after the author’s death—now they enter the public domain 70 years after the author’s death). That was the incorrect assumption.

A professor from Ohio State University wrote me in 2008 and pointed it out. He said:
“One small correction: these letters won’t enter the public domain in 2012. It is true that Joyce’s unpublished works enter the public domain then, but that means works that remain unpublished then. The published letters are just that – published – and they take on a copyright term of 95 years from date of publication – that is, for letters first published in the Selected Letters (are you prepared for this?) January 1, 2071.”

The painful irony is that if the James Joyce’s erotic letters had never been published then they’d be in the public domain by now. But if they had never been published we may not have known about them. Well, a terrible accident notwithstanding, I plan to be alive in 2071. Stephen Joyce will probably not make it until then.

Architectural Anomaly

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

There is a building I pass on the way to my new job and I’m obsessed with it. It’s called The Divine Lorraine Hotel. It is both architecturally and historically significant. It was one of the first hotels in the country to racially integrate its guests. Now it sits, beautiful and abandoned, on Broad Street.

The fate of the building is uncertain. A few years back renovations were in the works, but they have since halted. Here are some recent photos of the interior.

If any of you are in a position to purchase and restore the Divine Lorraine, I would greatly appreciate it =) Here it is in its heyday:


Britannica No More

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

It’s been announced that after 244 years Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer print encyclopedias in volumes. The information will exist in digital form only. This is sad because it’s the end of a very long era. For the sake of the environment, however, I fully support this decision.

People writing letters to each other is different because there is an emotional factor and it results in a personal legacy. It goes without saying that there is still value in this. Plus individuals do not produce anywhere near the amount of paper that companies do. Printing encyclopedias, telephone books, and dictionaries is no longer necessary. My heart breaks every time a new phone book shows up on my doorstep. Really? I think. I can’t bring myself to throw it away but I know I will never use it.

I still believe in printing books because a book does not contain information that can be Googled in an instant. It contains the unique point of view or the imaginative story of the author. But as we can see books are headed in the digital direction, too. I think bound books and kindle-type gadgets will exist side by side for the next few decades. I read both and enjoy both. When I travel, it’s the light Kindle I want with me. Cozy in my home, I prefer a book in hand (and a pen to underline favorite phrases!)


Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s take a moment and appreciate how far we’ve come—first, with a series of letters by Susan B. Anthony. She writes about voting illegally in the 1872 federal election and encourages other women to do the same. There is also an extraordinary letter on Letters of Note today, in which Abigail Adams warns to her husband John of rebellion unless women are given more power.

Happy Leap Day

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Congratulations! You have been given an extra 24 hours this year. Doing anything big? I’m planning to get my roots done, but you never know. I might just walk up to a man and ask him to marry me. Apparently, this is permitted on Leap Day. Whatever you do, enjoy!

Happy 200!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

To Charles Dickens. Photo taken in front of the Free Library of Philadelphia: