In this article, we examine the debate that surrounds prescribed reading lists in the English National Curriculum. In particular, we attempt to locate the role which ideas about heritage and social and moral values have played in constructing this debate. We begin by examining the English National Curriculum's origin in the 1980s as a conservative exercise in stemming cultural crisis, and the discourse about literature's role in the curriculum which this helped construct. We then examine how this discourse has influenced, and continues to influence, the educational policy of prescribing a list of authors and consider the assumptions that are embedded in this policy. Finally, we reflect upon how the material conditions of the classroom provide a site of resistance, or difficulty, for the officially sanctioned discourse concerning literature's role in the curriculum. \u
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