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English Literature: Medieval to Renaissance

medievalliteratureThe course maps early English literature in its historical development: from Anglo-Saxon to early Tudor. Lectures survey cultural and literary trends and styles, such as Old English poetry, the Gothic Renascence, the fourteenth century, and the Early Renaissance, as well as key genres (romances, Mystery plays, Morality plays) and writers (Chaucer, Langland, the Gawain poet). Seminars read closely literary texts (Beowulf, Sir Orfeo, Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, Secunda Pastorum, Everyman, lyrical pieces) in cultural context.


Here are the results for the 2016/2017 course. Please write by Thu evening in case of inaccuracies.

Instructors: Prof. Dr. E. Pancheva, Dr. A. Asparuhov, Dr. G. Niagolov

5th semester, 3rd year
Teaching: 30 lectures and 30 seminars
Credits: 4

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Detailed Programme

Medieval to Renaissance – Winter Semester



1. The Early Middle Ages.
2. The Old English period. Historical and Cultural Characteristics.
3. Old English Poetry: Beowulf and the Elegies.
4. The Gothic Renascence.
5. Medieval Romances. The Arthurian Legend. Lyrical Poetry.
6. The Fourteenth Century. The Alliterative Revival. The Gawain Poet.
7. The Fourteenth Century. William Langland.
8. The Fourteenth Century. Geoffrey Chaucer.
9. Medieval Drama: The Mystery Cycles.
10. Medieval Drama: Morality Plays.
11. Medieval to Renaissance: The Tudor Age.
12. Humanism and Reformation.
13. The Petrarchan Love Sonnet. Wyatt and Surrey.
14. The Flowering of the Sonnet: Sir Philip Sidney.


1. Introductory
2. Old English Poetry: Beowulf (excerpt)
3. Old English Poetry: an elegy.
4. Medieval Poetry: lyrics
5. Medieval Romances: Sir Orfeo (excerpt)
6. The Gawain Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, (excerpt)
7. William Langland, Piers Plowman: (excerpt)
8. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The General Prologue.
9. The Wakefield Cycle, Anonymous, Secunda Pastorum.
10. The Wakefield Cycle, Anonymous, Secunda Pastorum.
11. Anonymous, Everyman.
12. Anonymous, Everyman.
13. The Sonnet: Wyatt and Surrey.
14. The Sonnet: Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella.

ALL students attending seminar classes are expected to have read the text or excerpt scheduled for the respective week and provided in the reader.


The final grade for the course is the SUM of the CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT mark (amounting to 25% of the final grade) and the FINAL EXAMINATION mark (amounting to 75% of the final grade).

Continuous Assessment

The continuous assessment grade for the semester shall be the SUM of two marks awarded for:

A) An original written work: subject to the requirements of the respective instructor this work will be EITHER a 1500-2000 word essay (written at home) on one of the topics provided in Appendix A below OR a detailed literary analysis (written in class) of a short text provided by the instructor. The deadline for submission of the essays will be 15 January. Any essay that is handed past this date shall not be considered by the instructors (0 points). All essays are to be submitted by email to: All essays must conform to the 2009 MLA Formatting and Style Guide:

Evaluation method

The maximum amount of points for each written work shall be 30 of which 10 points shall be awarded for content, i.e. comprehensive coverage of the topic; 10 points shall be awarded for organisation, i.e. clarity and cohesion of the text, as well as compliance to the 2009 MLA Guide; and 10 points shall be awarded for original thinking and creativity.

Remarkable essays

B) Subject to the requirements of the respective instructor, EITHER consistent evaluation of class participation, OR a presentation on one of the topics provided in Appendix B below. There will be a total of 14 presentations: no more than 1 per seminar session.

Consistent evaluation of class participation means a series of 10-minute quizzes on the literary work to be discussed in class, aiming to verify whether students have read it carefully in advance, plus an subsequent evaluation of every student’s performance in each class.

Presentations will be allocated on first come first served basis. No presentation shall take more than 10 minutes. The presenter/s must cover the chosen topic completely within the given time. He or she must provide to each fellow-student and the instructor a copy of a one-page handout containing a concise and well-organised account of the gist of the presentation. Students are encouraged to use visual aids, yet this remains subject to the availability of technical equipment as well as preliminary arrangement with the instructor.

Evaluation method

The maximum amount of points for each presentation shall be 30 of which 10 points shall be awarded for content, i.e. comprehensive coverage of the topic; 10 points shall be awarded for organisation, i.e. clarity and cohesion both of the talk and the handout; and 10 points shall be awarded for delivery, i.e. engaging presentation style: e.g. intriguing, easy to follow, energetic, enthusiastic, well-rehearsed, etc.

Class Participation Groups


For their work on the course students are encouraged to use the RECOMMENDED BIBLIOGRAPHY below as well as all other resources available to them as long as they indicate quotations and give the appropriate credit for each citation. Any failure to do so shall be considered PLAGIARISM and the mark for the written work or presentation shall be annulled (0 points). In case strong similarity between individual students’ works is discovered the marks for all such works shall be annulled (0 points).

Appendix A

List of essay topics

1. Symbolism in the Old English Poem: The Phoenix

2. Transience and Eternity in the Elegy: The Seafarer

3. Images of Love in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis

4. Knighthood and Courtly Love in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde

5. The Power of Allegorical Moral and Social Satire in William Langland’s Piers Plowman

6. Comic Elements in Medieval Miracle and Mystery Plays

7. The Image of Man in the Medieval Morality Play: Mankind

8. The Supernatural in Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur

9. The Politics of Thomas More’s Utopia

10. Derivation and Innovation in Wyatt and Surrey’s Poetry


Appendix B

List of presentation topics

1. Anglo-Saxon Culture (seminar 2)

2. General Characteristics of Old English Poetry (seminar 3)

3. Old English Religious Literature (seminar 4)

4. Medieval Romances (seminar 5)

5. The Arthurian Legend (seminar 6)

6. The Medieval Worldview (seminar 7)

7. Chaucer’s life and work (seminar 8)

8. Theatre to the Middle Ages (seminar 9)

9. Mystery Plays (seminar 10)

10. Morality Plays (seminar 11)

11. The Origins of the Renaissance: Humanism and Reformation (seminar 12)

12. The reign of Henry VIII (seminar 13)

13. The Emergence of the Sonnet Sequence (seminar 14)



The final examination will be written and will take place within 4 astronomical hours. The examination paper shall have two parts: A) theoretical part consisting of three 150-200 word answers to three randomly chosen questions concerning the literary and cultural history of the studied period; and B) a 300-400-word analysis of a given literary text (excerpt or short poem). The use of any electronic devices during the exam is strictly prohibited and shall be penalised by immediate annulment of the examination paper.

Evaluation method

The maximum amount of points awarded for the examination paper shall be 60. The answer of each of the three questions in part one of the examination paper shall bring a maximum of 10 points for accuracy and comprehensive coverage of the topic. The analysis in part two shall bring a maximum of 30 points of which 10 points shall be awarded for content, 10 points shall be awarded for organisation, i.e. clarity and cohesion of the text, and 10 points shall be awarded for original thinking and creativity. There will be a pass threshold of 15 points for each part of the examination paper, i.e. no one will successfully pass the examination unless he or she has obtained at least 15 points in each part of the examination paper.



Author/Editor, Title, BASRC Classification

General Guidebooks

Mincoff, Marco A History of English Literature SV 820.9 MIN
Shurbanov , Alexander Poetics of the English Renaissance SV 820.9 SHU
Pancheva, Evgenia Dispersing Semblances: An Essay on Renaissance Culture SV 940.2 PAN
Wallace, David et al. (eds.) The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature SVR 820.9001 CAM
Loewenstein, David et al. (ed.) The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature SVR 820.9003 CAM
Ford, Boris (ed.) The New Pelican Guide to English Literature SV 820.9 FOR
Bolton, W. F. et al. (eds.) The Sphere History of English Literature Professor Mincoff Memorial Library
Sanders, Andrew The Short Oxford History of English Literature SVR 820.9 SAN
Head, Dominic The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English SVR 820.3
Hollander , JohnKermode , Frank The Literature of Renaissance England SV 820.9 HOL
Godden, Malcolm The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature SV 829.0920
Pulsanio, Philip et al. (eds.) A Companion to Anglo-Saxon Literature SV 829.0922
Brown, Peter (ed.) A Companion to Medieval English Literature and Culture SVR 820.9001 COM
Hattaway , Michael A Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture SV 820.9003 HAT
Veldhoen, N. H. G. E. Companion to Early Middle English Literature SV 820.900120 VEL
Trapp , J. B. Medieval English Literature SV 820.8001 TRA
Beadle, Richard The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre SV 792.0942
Mitchell , Bruce An Invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England
Myers , A. R. England in the Late Middle Ages 3SV 942.2 MYE

Critical Literature on specific topics

Achim Bednorz The Art of Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting SVR 700 TOM
Allport, Gordon W. Studies in Medieval English Romances SV 820.9001
Beadle Richard The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre SV 792.0942
Bindoff , S. T. , Stanley Thomas Tudor England SV 942.05 BIN
Boitani, Pietro et al. (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer SV 821.1 CAM
Brewer, Derek A New Introduction to Chaucer SV 821.1 BRE
Brown, Peter (ed.) A Companion to Chaucer SV 821.1 COM
Chambers , E. K. English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages SV 820.8 CHA
Chute, Marchette Goeffrey Chaucer of England SV 821.17 CHU
Donoghue, Daniel Old English Literature: A Short Introduction SV 829.0922 DON
Ford , Boris Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition SV 820.9 FOR
Gransden , Antonia Legends, Traditions and History in Medieval England SV 942.03 GRA
Hamilton, Donna B. (ed.) A Concise Companion to English Renaissance Literature SV 820.9003
Harris , John Wesley Medieval Theatre in Context: An Introduction SV 792.09 HAR
Hattaway , Michael Renaissance and Reformations: An Introduction to Early Modern English Literature SV 820.9003 HAT
Hussey , S. Chaucer: An Introduction SV 821.1 HUS
Klein, Lisa M. The Exemplary Sidney and the Elizabethan Sonneteer SVS 821.321 KLE
Lever, J. W. The Elizabethan Love Sonnet Professor Mincoff Memorial Library
McGrade, A. S. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy 3SV 189.22
McGrath , Alister E. , Alister Edgar The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation SV 274.06 MCG
Pearsall, Derek Albert Arthurian Romance: A Short Introduction SV 809.93351 PEA
Pincombe, Michael Elizabethan Humanism SV 820.9003 PIN
Plumb, J. H. The Italian Renaissance 3SV 945.05 PLU
Richardson, C. Medieval Drama SV 822.109
Ruggiero, Guido (ed.) A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance SVR 940.21 COM
Rutherford, Donald The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy 3SV 190.9032
Stenton, Doris Mary English Society in the Early Middle Ages (1066-1307) SV 942.02 STE
Vasta, E. Interpretations of Piers Plowman Professor Mincoff Memorial Library
Wickham , Glynne The Medieval Theatre SV 792.094 WIC


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