The course focuses on the main currents and representative figures of the High Renaissance in England and the transition to the Baroque. Offering an outline of the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline ages, it highlights the social, political and cultural characteristics of each. The discussion centers around the key figures of Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne and Milton. Seminar discussions follow a similar agenda, offering a close reading of exemplary texts, such as The Faerie Queene, The Spanish Tragedy, Doctor Faustus, As You Like It, Macbeth and Paradise Lost.

Instructors: Prof. Dr. E. Pancheva, Dr. A. Asparuhov, Dr. G. Niagolov
6th semester, 3rd year
Teaching: 30 lectures and 30 seminars
ECTS Credits: 5

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Detailed Programme

English Medieval and Renaissance Literature



1. Introductory

2. The Elizabethan Age: Social and Cultural Perspectives

3. Elizabethan Poetry and Criticism: Sir Philip Sidney

4. The Elizabethan Epic: Edmund Spenser

5. The Elizabethan Stage: Public and Courtly: John Lyly, Thomas Kyd.

6. The Rise of Drama: Christopher Marlowe.

7. Shakespeare the Elizabethan.

8. Jacobean Shakespeare.

9. The Jacobean Age: Social and Cultural Perspectives

10. Jacobean Drama: Genres and Conventions. Ben Jonson.

11. Metaphysical Poetry: John Donne.

12. The Age of Baroque: Social and Cultural Perspectives. John Milton.

Seminars (Dr. Georgi Niagolov’s version):

1. Introductory

2. The Elizabethan Sonnet Sequence: Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella,

3. The Elizabethan Sonnet Sequence: Edmund Spenser, Amoretti

4. Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene , Book Two

5. Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy

6. Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy

7. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

8. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

9. William Shakespeare, The Sonnets:

10. William Shakespeare, As You Like It

11. William Shakespeare, As You Like It

12. William Shakespeare, Macbeth

13. William Shakespeare, Macbeth

14.  John Donne, Songs and Sonnets: The Flea, The Sunne Rising, A Valediction: Of Weeping, Holy Sonnet I

15. John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I


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 is the SUM of two marks awarded for:

A) An original written work: subject to the requirements of the respective instructor this work is 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 is 31 May. Any essay that is handed in past this date will not be considered by the instructors (0 points). All essays MUST conform to the 2009 MLA Formatting and Style Guide:

Evaluation method

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

B) Class Participation (CP)

Method of Evaluation

Literary analysis (seminars)
Analytical Framework:
1. Select contexts that inform your reading (historical: political, social, economic, cultural, ideological, literary, biographical – whatever works).
2. Identify patterns in the text.
3. Pay attention to form and style (also as patterns).
4. Do the contexts, patterns, form and style point to prominent themes and do they express identifiable ideas?
5. What sense can you make of these themes and ideas? Can you relate them to other reading or personal experience?

Assessment of Class Participation (students assess each other):
1. Quiz – score 70% or higher shows that student has read the text for the day = 3 (3/6)
2. Classroom discussion – student shows awareness of context and identifies major features = 4 (4/6)
3. Classroom discussion – student identifies patterns in the text and across text and contexts = 5 (5/6)
4. Classroom discussion – student connects text, contexts and patterns into meaningful interpretation structures and can relate them to other reading and/or personal experience = 6 (6/6)

For both the written work and CP 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 will be considered PLAGIARISM and the mark for the written work or CP will be annulled (0 points). In case strong similarity between individual students’ works is discovered the marks for all such works will be annulled (0 points).

Alternatively to CP, subject to the discretion of the instructor, this part of the overall grade (12.5%) may be awarded on the basis of class participation (discussions, analyses, quizzes, etc.).

Here are the current CP results for the groups taught by Dr. Niagolov.

Appendix A

List of essay topics

1. The Elizabethan Sonnet Sequence: Conventions and Innovations

2. Elizabethan Courtship in Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia

3. Elizabethan Colonialism in Edmund Spenser’s A View of the Present State of Ireland

4. The Importance of Style in John Lyly’s Eupheus

5. The Spirit of Exploration and Discovery in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Volume VII

6. The Tragedy of Obsession in William Rowley and Thomas Middleton’s The Changeling

7. Social Criticism in Ben Jonson’s Volpone

8. Passion and Revenge in John Webster’s The White Devil

9. Farce in Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle

10. Scientific Utopia in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis


The final examination is written and takes place within 4 astronomical hours. The examination paper has 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).

Evaluation method

The maximum amount of points awarded for the examination paper is 60. The answer of each of the three questions in part one of the examination paper brings a maximum of 10 points for accuracy and comprehensive coverage of the topic. The analysis in part two brings a maximum of 30 points of which 10 points are awarded for content, 10 points are awarded for organisation, i.e. clarity and cohesion of the text, and 10 points are awarded for original thinking and creativity. There is 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. The use of any electronic devices during the exam is not allowed.


Author/Editor Title BASRC Class
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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