Adventures with Emotions in Bulgarian Literature from the 18th and 19th Century

Oct, 2019

About the Course:

By means of pedagogy, this course encourages students to examine a certain literary period – that of Bulgarian literature between the 18th and 19th centuries – through the affective relationships between the authors, their texts, and the larger Ottoman context. As each of the classes starts with an overview of the main philosophical definitions of a certain emotion, it also tries to historicize its representation within the chosen timeframe. Case studies based on textual primary sources from the period will serve as illustrations to the chosen theoretical and historical perspective.

In order to balance between theory and practical exercises, and between new macro-perspectives and students’ initial knowledge about the “Revival” period in Bulgarian history, each class is designed along the lines of a specific research question. As a result, the general course structure is thematic, focusing on different emotions and their articulations.

In parallel to the proportion of students’ readings and class performance, there is also a balance between traditional teaching methods and modern ones. The latter include platforms for electronic learning, repositories, and quantitative tools for analysis. I have designed a Moodle course where I have integrated all primary sources needed for each class and several secondary sources. However, besides the teaching platform and its possibility to integrate videos, web links and images, I rely on situational approaches for active learning, such as discussion groups, situational switch of roles in class, and brainstorming opportunities over unfamiliar texts or videos. The course is designed in a way that encourages a mutual learning process between the teacher and the student, and allows me to improve and offer it in a more challenging form to MA students at the Faculty.

This course is a pedagogical work-in-progress whose initial success in the last academic year, 2018/2019, made me believe it can be designed in a better way after taking into consideration the good practices and recommendations of the “Teaching Europe” project implemented by the Centre for Advanced Study, Sofia, and the New Europe College, Bucharest (2017–2020).

Disciplinary Scope:

The aim of the course is to introduce students to a comparatively new field of study: history of emotions. Its scope includes research of the transfer of earlier ideas about emotions from Europe and the Mediterranean and investigation of the local adaptations of this transfer in Bulgarian culture of the 18th–19th centuries. The course aims at intersecting the historical, philosophical, literary, and anthropological perspectives, which results in the study of certain emotions alongside their evidences in written fictional accounts. The adventures with emotions – shame and guilt, joy and grief, love and hate, etc. – will involve investigation not only of their binary relations but also of their nuances and levels of intensity.


history, emotions, literature, representation, entangled histories, Ottoman culture, Bulgarian writers, Enlightenment, Revival, nationalism


The course brings about the possibility to combine ideas and methods from several disciplinary fields in order to introduce innovative and modern perspectives on the study of the so-called “Revival literature”. In the general course program, students from the Faculty of Slavic Studies at Sofia University learn about literary events and writers from the canon of Bulgarian literature, which are arranged chronologically with a significant emphasis on their impact on the national idea. Therefore, as an alternative to this type of arrangement, my course offers a perspective that historicizes the representation of emotions in literary texts from the period of the 18th and 19th centuries, while also engaging in retelling the literary-historical narratives by means of their reconceptualization within a larger Ottoman and Balkan perspective.

The course aims to introduce students to some major findings from the European philosophical tradition that relate to emotions, their typology, their origins, and their performance. The course structure, respectively, is a combination between two parts: 1) a theoretical perspective driven from philosophical, psychological, and cultural studies; 2) a case study from Bulgarian literature and culture of the “Revival period” where a certain emotion is represented in its different dimensions.

In order to fulfill its aim, the course will address questions, such as: What is emotion? How to write the history of emotions in an Ottoman, and more specifically, Bulgarian context? Are shame and guilt interrelated? Can we write a Bulgarian “history of tears” on the basis of a generic tradition of dialogues, which include lamentation to raise communal and national questions? How did the process of a mentality shift happen to the Bulgarian community, which at that moment was starting to seek its autonomy in the Ottoman Empire? How did medieval perceptions of emotions related to Christianity and its written Slavonic tradition reflect on the modern concept of subjectivity and social responsibility of the author? How do the writings of the period deal with the discourse of fear and how did the image of the religious other become a frightening personage in 19th-century Bulgarian literature? What is the typology of love expressions in Bulgarian literature and was there a hierarchy in the attitude towards the objects of love – God, the nation, the friend, and the lover? What could provoke joy in the writings of Bulgarian authors, and what were the satirical dimensions of laughter in the evolving Bulgarian journalism?

Learning Outcomes:

During the course, students will:

Course Structure:

As the course is for part-time students with an intensive learning program, it needs a more specific calculation of hours and a more deliberate strategy of distribution of tasks and assessments.

Course Requirements:

Nadezhda Alexandrova

Department of Bulgarian Literature, Faculty of Slavic Studies, Sofia University