Anne E. Linton’s book provides a fascinating look at the medical and literary history of, to use period terminology, hermaphrodism in the nineteenth century and intersex people in the early twentieth century (and beyond). Most surprisingly, Linton reveals the astounding interaction between literary and medical writing during this time as authors in the two realms shared the same cultural anxieties and influenced each other. Although many doctors believed that there was a “true sex,” some authors in medicine and in literature found similarity between the sexes and showed that true sex is mere fiction.

Unmaking Sex is an impressive combination of scientific and literary history that rests on extensive archival research. Linton begins with the discourses of nineteenth-century science and the increasing visibility of hermaphrodism in this period. Even though all infants had to be classified as either male or female, there were sensationalized court cases involving “doubtful sex.” As...

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