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Abstract

This article explores James Parsons’ A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites (1741) in the context of the Enlightenment goal to elucidate all mysteries of the natural world. Parsons’ text is typically discussed as representing the break between old, mythologically-inspired and new, fact-based explanations of sexually ambiguous bodies and thereby encapsulating Enlightenment objectivity, optimism, and certainty. A closer look, however, reveals that intellectual anxiety permeates Parsons’ text, which was published in an era of turbulent epistemological changes. The hermaphrodite becomes the symbol for an era that strives to solve all mysteries of the natural world yet struggles with this endeavor.

In: Taking Stock – Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research

Abstract

This article explores James Parsons’ A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites (1741) in the context of the Enlightenment goal to elucidate all mysteries of the natural world. Parsons’ text is typically discussed as representing the break between old, mythologically-inspired and new, fact-based explanations of sexually ambiguous bodies and thereby encapsulating Enlightenment objectivity, optimism, and certainty. A closer look, however, reveals that intellectual anxiety permeates Parsons’ text, which was published in an era of turbulent epistemological changes. The hermaphrodite becomes the symbol for an era that strives to solve all mysteries of the natural world yet struggles with this endeavor.

In: Taking Stock – Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research
In: Contemplating Violence
Women Write Back explores the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century women’s responses to texts written by well-known Enlightment figures. Hilger investigates the authorial strategies employed by Karoline von Günderrode, Ellis Cornelia Knight, Julie de Krüdener, and Helen Maria Williams, whose works engage Voltaire’s Mahomet, Johnson’s Rasselas, Goethe’s Werther, and Rousseau’s Julie. The analysis of these women’s texts sheds light on the literary culture of a period that deemed itself not only enlightened but also egalitarian.
In: Women Write Back
In: Women Write Back
In: Women Write Back
In: Women Write Back
In: Women Write Back