Course title:

Literature in the English Language: Periods and Genres


Tutor: Atanas Manchorov, Ph.D.


Mode of delivery: lectures and seminars

Course place and status within the program

Plovdiv University, a required course

Competence expectations


Students acquire knowledge through systematic study of the literature of Britain and the U.S.A. As the subtitle suggests, the course offers an overview of major periods, genres and styles (past and present) against the backdrop of British and American history and culture. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate better spoken and written language skills.

2. Read and comprehend medieval, early modern, modern, and postmodern literary texts.

3. Discuss issues of genre and typology.

4. Use literary and historical data as evidence for their position.

5. Summarize and cite various sources in making arguments.

6. Use library and electronic resources to complete assignments.


Aims and objectives of the course


This course has the following aims and objectives:


Personal: improve their proficiency in English

gain insight into the periods and genres of English and American literatu

critical thinking (analysis, critique, problem-solving)

build up an overall picture of English and American literature and culture

write homework assignments


Interactive: team-working, communication skills


Weekly organization of topics & reading assignments






  1. (GB) The Old English Period 450-1066.

  • The Heroic Epic – Beowulf.

  • The Elegies – The Wanderer, The Seafarer.

  1. (GB) The Middle English Period 1066-1500.

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales as a Compendium of Medieval Literary Genres (romance, exemplum, fabliau, sermon, animal fable).

Alliterative Verse Romances – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

  1. (GB) The Renaissance 1 (1500-1660).

  • General Characteristics of the Period. The Great Chain of Being. Humanism.

  • Elizabethan Drama: Shakespeare – Hamlet;

  1. (GB) The Renaissance 2 (1500-1660).

  • The Jacobean Age (1603-1625) – An Overview. Ben Jonson – Volpone.

  • (US) The 17th and 18th Centuries. The Colonial Period (1607-1776).

  1. (GB) The Renaissance 3 (1500-1660).

  • The Caroline Age (1625-1649) – An Overview.

  • The Commonwealth Period. John Milton – Paradise Lost.

  1. (GB) The Neoclassical Period 1 (1660-1785)

  • The Restoration (1660-1685) – An Overview.

  • Poetry (the English epic), Drama (tragedy, comedy), Prose (philosophical, religious, fiction).

  1. (GB) The Neoclassical Period 2 (1660-1785).

  • The Augustan Age (1700-1745).

  • The Age of Sensibility (1745-1785).

  • (US) The Revolutionary Age (1765-1790).

  1. Late 18th– and Early 19th–Century Literature.

  • (GB) The Romantic Period (1798-1837);

  • (US) The Early National Period (1775-1828).

  1. Victorian Literature 1. (US) The Romantic Period (1828-1865).

  • (GB) The Victorian Period 1 (1837-1901).

  • (US) The Romantic Period (1828-1865).

  1. (GB) Victorian Literature 2.

  • (GB) Aestheticism and Decadence.

  • (US) The Realistic Period.

  1. The 20th Century I:

  • (GB) The Edwardian Period (1901-1914).

  • (US) The Naturalistic Period.

  1. The 20th Century II:

  • The Georgian Period (1910-1936).

  • (US) The American Modernist Period.

  1. The 20th Century III.

  • (GB) The Modern Period (1914-1945).

  • (US) The Contemporary Period I: 1950s – Beat Writers.

  1. (GB) The 20th Century 4.

  • The Postmodern Period.

  • (US) The Contemporary Period II: 1960s-70s – Counterculture.

  1. (US) Multi-Ethnic Literature.

  • Native American Literature: autobiographies (William Apes – A Son of the Forest), novels (John Rollin Ridge – The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, 1854; Simon Pokagon – Queen of the Woods, 1899), legends, folktales.

  • African-American Literature: oral poetry, prose (Frederick DouglassNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), poetry (Phillis Wheatley – Poems on Various Subjects), fiction (Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye)

  • Asian American Writers.


Plan of Seminars




Work(s): Beowulf

Issues for Discussion:

Type of Work and Genre. Date of Composition. Transmission of the Story. Settings. Characters. Type of Verse (alliteration) and Diction (kenning). Structure. Source. Point of View. Themes (goodness vs. evil, actions vs. words, etc.). The Heroic Code (comitatus; bravery, loyalty, reputation, generosity).


  1. "Beowulf." Anglo-Saxon Poetry. Trans. R. K. Gordon. London: Dent, 1957. 1-63. Print.

  2. "Beowulf." Literature of the Western World. The Ancient World through the Renaissance. 2nd ed. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan, 1988. 1197-1267. Print.


  1. "Types of Poetry." Literature. 2nd ed. Ed. R. Di Yanni. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990. Chap. 7, 423-25. Print.

  2. Robinson, Fred C. "Beowulf." The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature. Ed. Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. 142-59. Print.


WEEK 2: The middle english period (1350-1500)


Work(s): ChaucerThe Canterbury Tales

Issues for Discussion:

Type of Work. Date of Composition. Language. Number of Tales. The Tabard Inn. When and Where the Story Begins and Continues? Length of Trip, Condition of Road, and Safety. Thomas à Becket: Martyr, Saint. Characterization. Examples of Genres and Literary Devices: Fablau, Chivalric Romance, Arthurian Romance, Beast Fable, Homily, Saint's Life; Satire, Burlesque, Low Comedy, Breton Lay, Allegory.


1. Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Canterbury Tales." Literature of the Western World. The Ancient World through the Renaissance. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. New York: Macmillan, 1988. 1563-1636. Print.

2. Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Canterbury Tales." Medieval English Literature. Ed. J. B. Trapp. New York: Oxford UP, 1978. 119-276. Print.


  1. N. Coghill, "Chaucer." British Writers. Ed. by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Vol.1. New York: Scribner's, 1979. 19-47. Print.

  2. Pearsall, D. A. "The Canterbury Tales." The Penguin History of Literature. The Middle Ages. Ed. by W. F. Bolton. Vol. 1. London: Penguin, 1986. 237-66. Print.




Work(s): Shakespeare's Tragedies – Hamlet

Issues for Discussion:

I. Key Elements of Drama: 1) Plot (the play within the play method; "acting" as an art form: asides, soliloquies); 2) Character (major characters: the older generation, the younger generation; minor characters); 3) Theme (revenge and attitudes toward death; sexual/moral/physical corruption and the portrayal of court life; madness and melancholy; random fortune vs. divine master plan; "acting" as thematic focus – appearances and realities); 4) Dialogue (language(s) in Hamlet; blank verse and diction); 5) Rhythm; 6) Spectacle.

II. Critical Approaches to Hamlet: 1) The Renaissance period; 2) Restoration; 3) Early 18th century; 4) Romantic criticism; 5) Late 19th to early 20th centuries; 6) Mid- and late-20th century.

III. Common subjects of criticism: Revenge and Hamlet's delay, madness, religion (Protestantism, Catholicism), heroic, meta-interpretational.


1. Shakespeare, W. "Hamlet." The Literature Network. Web. <>.


  1. Eliot, T. S. "Hamlet and His Problems." The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. London: Methuen, 1920. 87-94. Print (see also <>).

  2. "Study Guide for Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The Glencoe Literature Library. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. Web <>.




Work(s): Mary ShelleyFrankestein

Issues for Discussion:

Key Literary Elements: 1) Setting; 2) Character List; 3) Conflict; 3) Plot; 4) Theme; 5) Mood.

Genre and Narrative: Frankestein as a Gothic Novel; Narrative Approach (frame tale, epistolary novel).

Major Topics: Boundaries of Science. Ignorance as Bliss; Human Injustice toward Outsiders; Sexist Viewpoints.

Overlapping Literary Contexts: The Title and Its Meaning.


  1. Shelley, Mary W. "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus." Project Gutenberg. Web. <>.

  2. Shelley, Mary W. "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus." Literature.Org: The Online Literature Library. Web. <>.


  1. Clemit, Pamela. "Mary Shelley's Myth-Making." The Godwinian Novel: The Rational Fictions of Godwin, Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1993. 139-74. Print. Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.

  2. "Study Guide for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley." New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.



Work(s): William Thakeray – Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero

Issues for Discussion:

Key Literary Elements: 1) Setting; 2) Character List; 3) Conflict; 3) Plot; 4) Theme; 5) Mood.

Genre and Narrative: The Omniscient Narrator and the Reader; Social Satire and Parody; Literary Fiction.

Major Topics: Vanity, Hypocrisy, Opportunism; Heroism; Time; Death; Materialism; Types of Motherhood.


  1. Thackeray, William Makepeace. "Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero." The Project Gutenberg EBook of Vanity Fair. Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.

  2. Thackeray, William Makepeace. "Vanity Fair." The Literature Page ( Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.


Bloom, Harold, ed. William Makepeace Thackeray. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Print.




Work(s): FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

Issues for Discussion:

Key Literary Elements: 1) Setting; 2) Character List; 3) Conflict; 3) Plot; 4) Theme; 5) Tone.

Genre and Narrative: Literary Fiction; Modernism; Narrative Method – First-Person (Peripheral Narrator): Nick Caraway.

Major Topics: Honesty; Corruption of Wealth; The Death of the American Dream; Gender Roles; Violence; Class; Religion; WW I.


  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Great Gatsby." Project Gutenberg Australia. Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.

  2. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "The Great Gatsby." The University of Adelaide Library. U of Adelaide: ebooks@Adelaide, 2012. Web. Oct. 8, 2012 <>.


1. Lehan, Richard D. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Craft of Fiction. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966. Print.

2. Mizener, Arthur, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Print.




Work(s): Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye

Issues for Discussion:

Key Literary Elements: 1) Setting; 2) Character List; 3) Conflict; 3) Plot; 4) Theme; 5) Tone.

Genre Study: African-American Modernist Fiction; First Person (Central Narrator) and Third Person (Omniscient).

Major Topics: Whiteness as the Standard of Beauty; Seeing vs. Being Seen; The Power of Stories; Sexual Initiation and Abuse; Bluest Eye(s).


Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2000.


1. Kuenz, Jane. "‘The Bluest Eye': Notes on History, Community, and Black Female Subjectivity." African American Review 27.3 (1993): 421 ff. Web Oct. 8, 2012 <>.

2. "Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye." Core Studies 6 Page. Web Oct. 8, 2012 <>.


Course requirements


1. Attendance. Attendance is mandatory. For the fourth and each subsequent unexcused absence, the final average will be lowered by 1 point. The options listed below are considered acceptable reasons for excused absences:

  • serious illness;

  • illness or death of family member;

  • university-related trips;

  • major religious holidays;

  • other circumstances you find to be reasonable cause for nonattendance.

2. Make-up opportunity. When there is an excused absence, students must be given the opportunity to make up missed work and/or exams. It is the student's responsibility to inform the instructor of the absence preferably in advance, but no later than one week after it.

3. Classroom behavior, decorum, and civility. Acts of classroom incivility will not be tolerated. Students are expected to be polite and respectful while attending the course of lectures or participating in class discussions.

4. Academic integrity. Plagiarism and cheating will not be tolerated, and those suspected of academic dishonesty will face disciplinary proceedings in accordance with published Plovdiv University guidelines.


Mode of assessment


Type of assessment: attendance

participation (presentations, collaboration)

final exam



I. Anthologies


Baym, Nina et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 6th ed. 5 vols. New York: Norton, 2003. Print.

Greenblatt, S. et al., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Middle Ages through the Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1986. Print.

Greenblatt, S. et al., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. The Romantic Period Through the Twentieth Century. Vol. 2. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.

Gates, Henry Louis, and Nelly Y. McKay, gen. eds. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. New York: Norton, 1996. Print.

Lauter, Paul, and Richard Yarborough, gen. eds. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 2nd ed., rev. 2 vols. Lexington, MA: Heath, 1994. Print.

McQuade, Donald et al., eds. The Harper American Literature. 2nd ed. New York: Harper, 1994. Print.

Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt, eds. Literature of the Western World. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan, 1988. Print.

Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt, eds. Literature of the Western World. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1992. Print.


II. Surveys of Literature in the English Language


Bowden, Muriel. A Reader's Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer. London: Thames and Hudson, 1965. Print.

Corns, Th. N., ed. The Cambridge Companion to English Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.

Daiches, David. A Critical History of English Literature. 2 vols. London: Ronald P, 1969. Print.

Ford, Borris. A Pelican Guide to English Literature. New York: Penguin, 1968. Print.

Fowler, Alastair. A History of English Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1987. Print.

Magill, Frank N., ed. Magill's Survey of American Literature. 8 vols. New York: Cavendish, 1991-94. Print.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. 3rd ed. New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Spiller, rev. Robert E., et al, eds. Literary History of the United States. 4th ed. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1974. Print.


III. Companions, Handbooks, and Dictionaries


Cuddon, J. A., ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin, 1991. Print.

Daiches, David, ed. The Penguin Companion to English Literature. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. Print.

Hart, James David. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. 6th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Print.

Holman, C. Hugh, and William Harmon, eds. A Handbook to Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Print.

Hudson, W. H. An Outline History of English Literature. London: Bell, 1932. Print.

Inge, M. Thomas, ed. Handbook of American Popular Literature. New York: Greenwood P, 1988. Print.

Myers, Robin, comp. and ed. A Dictionary of Literature in the English Language. Oxford: Pergamon, 1970. Print.


IV. Bibliographies


Blanck, Jacob, ed. Bibliography of American Literature. 9 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1955-91. Print.

Manly, John Matthews, and Edith Rickert. Contemporary American Literature: Bibliographies and Study Outlines. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co, 1922. Print.