Witches and demons attack victims at night by 'riding' them in their beds, crushing them to death. Knights kiss one another in vows of eternal love – and dress as courtly maidens. A religious ascetic adopts a eunuch disguise, then new pronouns and a new name. This course explores 'queers before queerness': the fascinating, fluctuating ways gender, sex, and sexuality were defined and experienced in the premodern literary tradition. We will examine the porous boundaries of gender and sexuality – and the ways those concepts express, uphold, and undermine normative ideas and anxieties about power, embodiment, immortal souls, and erotic desires – in medieval English literature, from epic poetry to Arthurian romance. We will engage with current gender and queer theory, learning to use these frameworks to read literature productively, and (most importantly) discover the ways in which medieval ideas about gender, sex, sexuality, and the self continue to inform contemporary discourse and shape modern culture.