Enlightenment Angst: James Parsons' A Mechanical and Critical Enquiry into the Nature of Hermaphrodites

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTaking Stock-Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research
Editors Norbert Bachleitner, Achim Hölter, John A. McCarthy
PublisherBrill
Pages247-269
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-41035-0
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-40828-9
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Publication series

NameInternationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft
Volume200

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