chapter  3
13 Pages

Epistemological Anxiety

The Case of Michel-Anne Drouart
WithStephanie M. Hilger

“Epistemological Anxiety” examines the eighteenth-century legal and medical case studies written about Michel-Anne Drouart, a supposed “hermaphrodite,” a term that was used for all bodies that did not fit within the gender binary. In the context of the Enlightenment’s empirical endeavor to elucidate all mysteries of the natural world, scientists carefully examined, measured, and recorded the details of Drouart’s sexually ambiguous body. Yet the hermaphroditic body thwarted scientific efforts to elucidate its workings and resulted in a sense of epistemological anxiety that emerged from profound shifts in eighteenth-century structures of knowledge.