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The Littlehampton LibelsA Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England$
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Christopher Hilliard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198799658

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198799658.001.0001

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(p.161) Epilogue
The Littlehampton Libels

Christopher Hilliard

Oxford University Press

The epilogue considers the mystery of Edith Swan and her wider significance. It begins by examining the press commentary on her and moves down into questions of motive and agency. After Swan’s conviction, newspapers were quick to diagnose her with a form of ‘sex mania’, applying the second-hand Freudianism that was becoming current in early 1920s Britain (one that assumed that repression led to outbursts of sexualized behaviour, rather than displacement into other areas). Yet Swan’s actions were at least as consistent with what is now known as borderline personality disorder. Many of Swan’s letters needled members of her own family about homely grievances. And while the letters accusing her of being promiscuous may have been fantasies of a sort, they also set up dramas in which she played the starring role.

Keywords:   newspapers, sexuality, crime, scandal, modernity, Freud, psychoanalysis, Maurice Hamblin Smith, borderline personality disorder

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