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Medieval Gender and Sexuality

medieval painting

This course will explore medieval constructions of gender and sexuality, seeking to locate both continuities and discontinuities with modern conceptions and practices. While labels such as “gay,” “genderqueer,” “transgendered” did not exist in the Middle Ages, medieval people imagined and engaged in types of gender shifting and polymorphous modes of desire that help us to understand the necessity for labile terminology to describe identities linked with gendered and sexual practices. Examining traditions from Medieval Europe but with some exploration of the Islamic Middle East, this course considers how various aspects of medieval culture, such as religion, celibacy, knighthood, courtly culture, marriage, class hierarchy, crossdressing, etc. shaped notions of gender and sexuality. Though examining theological, medical, and legal writings, moral guidebooks, chronicles, artwork, and literary works, this course will engage texts from the early to late Middle Ages in dialogue with contemporary theoretical writing to attempt to articulate specificities of the medieval sex/gender system.  Requirements include regular attendance and participation, oral presentation, research paper.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.