Course title:

Old English Literature (Module 1: Medieval English Literature; Module 2: Renaissance English Literature)


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 history, literature and culture of a fairly long period of British civilization extending into the 17th century. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Read and understand medieval and Renaissance literary texts.

2. Discuss key issues related to teaching English literature.

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

4. Form the basis on which to select and/or design instruction materials or teaching methods.

5. Summarize and cite various sources in making arguments.

6. Use library and electronic resources to complete assignments.

7. Do an M.A. in literature or literary theory


Aims and objectives of the course


This course has the following aims and objectives:


Personal: improved proficiency in English

improved insight into English literature, history, and culture

critical thinking (analysis, critique, problem-solving)

knowledge (building up an overall picture of English literature and culture)

self-control skills (self-discipline, time-keeping, and planning)


Interactive: team-working, communication skills


Weekly organization of topics & reading assignments





The Anglo-Saxon Period (428-1100)

  1. Anglo-Saxon Heroic Poetry: Beowulf. Anglo-Saxon Elegies: The Ruin, The Wanderer, The Seafarer, The Wife's Lament, The Husband's Message. Gnomic Poetry. Spells. Riddles.

  2. Early Christian Poetry 1: The School of Caedmon.

  3. Early Christian Poetry 2: The School of Cynewulf.

  4. King Alfred and the Literature of Wessex (890-1100). The Venerable Bede – Ecclesiastical History. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

The Anglo-Norman Period (1180-1350)

  1. The Norman Conquest. The Gothic Renaissance. Literature of the Transition (1180-1250).

  2. Layamon. The Arthurian Legend.

  3. Romances, Tales, and Chronicles (1250-1350).

The Middle English Period (1350-1500)

  1. The Alliterative Revival 1 (1350-1400): W. Langland.

  2. The Alliterative Revival 2 (1350-1400): The Gawain Poet.

  3. Geoffrey Chaucer 1. The Periods. Troilus and Criseyde.

  4. Geoffrey Chaucer 2: The Canterbury Tales.

  5. Late Romances (1350-1500). The Traditional Ballad.

  6. Medieval Drama 1: Mysteries, Miracles.

  7. Medieval Drama 2: Moralities, Interludes.

  8. Fifteenth Century Prose. William Caxton. Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte Darthur, etc.



The Early Tudor Age (1500-1557)

  1. Tudor Drama. Early Comedy and Tragedy. Academic Drama. Th. Norton and Th. Sackville - Gorboduc. Gammer Gurton's Needle. N. Udall - Ralph Roister Doister. J. Heywood, J. Skelton, Sir D. Lindsay, J. Bale, H. Medwall, J. Rastell.

  2. Poetry: Sir Th. Wyatt, Henry Howard (Earl of Surrey).

The Elizabethan Age (1558-1603)

  1. The High Renaissance (1579-1598). Edmund Spenser.

  2. Sir Philip Sidney and the Sonneteers.

  3. The University Wits. Major Representatives: Thomas Kyd, John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe.

  4. Shakespeare 1: Tragedies.

The Jacobean Age (1603-1625)

  1. Shakespeare 2: Comedies.

  2. Shakespeare 3: History Plays.

  3. The Period of Revolt (1598-1612). Dramatists of the Revolt. The Leaders: Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Marston.

  4. Elizabethan and Jacobean Lyric Poetry. Shakespeare. B. Jonson. M. Drayton. J. Hall. S. Daniel. Th. Campion. Sir H. Wotton.

The Caroline Age (1625-1649)

  1. The Rise of Baroque (1612-1660). Caroline Drama: Ph. Massinger, J. Ford, J. Shirley. Minor Dramatists. The Closing of the Theatres.

  2. The Metaphysical Poets: J. Donne, A. Marvell, A. Cowley, G. Herbert, R. Crashaw, H. Vaughan). Caroline Lyric Poetry – Cavaliers and Puritans. R. Herrick, Th. Carew, Sir John Suckling, R. Lovelace. The Couplet Writers - Ed. Waller, Sir J. Denham.

The Interregnum (1649-1660)

  1. Baroque Prose. Th. Hobbes. Sir Th. Brown. The Anglican Clergy: J. Taylor. The Puritans: R. Baxter, J. Milton. The Eccentrics: Sir Th. Urquhart, Th. Fuller, Iz. Walton. Translations.

  2. John Milton 1: The Periods.

  3. John Milton 2: Paradise Lost.


Fifth Semester – Module 1: Medieval English Literature






Lecture Topics

Seminar Topics



Anglo-Saxon Heroic Poetry: Beowulf


Introduction: The Anglo-Saxons


Early Christian Poetry 1: Caedmon




Early Christian Poetry 2: Cynewulf


Waldhere, Widsith, Deor, etc.


King Alfred & the Literature of Wessex

Caedmon; Cynewulf


The Norman Conquest


Bede – ‘Historia Ecclesiastica'


Layamon. The Arthurian Legend


The Owl and the Nightingale


Romances, Tales & Chronicles


Layamon – Brut


The Alliterative Revival 1: Langland


Havelok the Dane; Sir Orfeo


The Alliterative Revival 2: The Pearl Poet

Langland – Piers Plowman


Chaucer 1: The Periods.


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


Chaucer 2: The Canterbury Tales


Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales 1


Late Romances. The Traditional Ballad

Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales 2


Drama 1: Mysteries & Miracles


The Ballad: Sir Patrick Spense, etc.


Drama 2: Moralities & Interludes


The Second Shepherds' Play; Everyman


15th-century Prose. Caxton. Malory

Malory – Le Morte Darthur


Sixth Semester – Module 2: Renaissance English Literature






Lecture Topics


Seminar Topics


Tudor Drama: Early Comedy & Tragedy

Introduction: The Age of Humanism


Poetry: Wyatt & Surrey

Gorboduc; Gammer Gurton's Needle


The High Renaissance: Spenser

Poetry: Wyatt & Surrey


Sidney & the Sonneteers

Spenser – The Faerie Queene


The University Wits: Kid, Lyly, Marlowe

Sidney – Astrophil and Stella


Shakespeare's Tragedies

Marlowe – Doctor Faustus


Shakespeare's Comedies

Shakespeare – Macbeth


Shakespeare's History Plays

Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream


The Period of Revolt: Ben Jonson, etc.

Shakespeare – Henry V


Elizabethan & Jacobean Lyric Poetry

Jonson – Volpone


The Rise of Baroque. Caroline Drama

Shakespeare's Sonnets


The Metaphysical Poets

Caroline Drama: Massinger, Ford, Shirley


Baroque Prose

John Donne – Songs and Sonnets


Milton 1: The Periods

Hobbes – Leviathan


Milton 2: Paradise Lost


Milton – Paradise Lost


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: regular practical work, reflective learning statements

essays and assignments

group work (communication of ideas, collaboration)


final exams


Grading policy:




Requirement Points








70 %



Total 100 %





I. Anthologies


Abrams, M. H., and Stephen J. Greenblatt, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Middle Ages through the Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1986. Print.

Costello, Jacqueline, and Amy Tucker, eds. Forms of Literature: A Writer's Collection. New York: Random, 1989. Print.

Gordon, R. K., trans. Anglo-Saxon Poetry. London: Dent, 1957. Print.

Grancharov, Hristo, and Bogdan Atanasov, eds. English Medieval Literature: A Reader. Veliko Turnovo: Cyril and Methodius U, 1976. Print.

Hollander, John, and Frank Kermode, eds. The Literature of Renaissance England. New York: Oxford UP, 1973. Print.

Neilson, W. A., ed. The Chief Elizabethan Dramatists. Cambridge: Riverside P, 1939. Print.

Shurbanov, Alexander, and Boika Sokolova, eds. Readings in English Literature: The Middle Ages and the Renaissance Age. Sofia: SUP, 1986. Print.

Trapp, J. B., ed. Medieval English Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1973. Print.

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


II. Surveys of English Literature


Chambers, E. K., ed. English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1957. Print.

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

Ford, Boris, ed. The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vols. 1-4. London: Penguin, 1982. Print.

Ford, Boris, ed. The Pelican Guide to English Literatture. Vols. 1-4. London: Penguin, 1977. Print.

Grebanier, Bernard D. Essentials of English Literature: From its Beginning to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Vol. 1. Great Neck: Barron's, 1959. Print.

Lewis, C. S. English Literature in the 16th Century (excluding drama). Oxford: Calarendon P, 1969. Print.

Mincoff, Marco. A History of English Literature. Pt. 1. Sofia: Naouka I Izkoustvo,1976. Print.

Quennell, Peter, and H. Johnson, eds. A History of English Literature. London: Oxley, 1973. Print.

Ricks, Christopher, ed. History of Literature in the English Language. 3 vols. London: Sphere, 1970. Print.

Scott-Kilvert, Ian, ed. British Writers. 2 vols. New York: Scribner's, 1979. Print.


III. Companions, Handbooks, and Dictionaries


Barnhart, Clarence L., and William D. Halsey, eds. The New Century Handbook of English Literature. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1967. Print.

Beadle, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Print.

Braunmuller, R. A., and Michael Hattaway, eds. The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. Print.

Buck, Claire, ed. Women's Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 1994. Print.

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

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

Drabble, Margaret, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.

Harvey, Sir Paul, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1981. Print.

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

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

Ousby, Ian, ed. The Cambridge Giude to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993. Print.

Stringer, Jenny, ed. The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

Wells, S., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986. Print.

Wynne-Davies, Marione, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 1989. Print.


IV. Bibliographies


Watson, George, ed. The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Vol. 1, 600-1660. London, New York: Cambridge UP, 1974. Print.

Howard-Hill, T. H., ed. Bibliography of British Literary Bibliographies. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. London: Oxford UP, 1988. Print.

Kirkpatrick, D. L., ed. Reference Guide to English Literature. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: St James P, 1991. Print.