This chapter surveys the evolution of the prescribed lists for English literature syllabi that were read in secondary schools in Ireland and New South Wales, Australia for the last century. We use historical and comparative perspectives to demonstrate how the texts prescribed for study in these societies were a product of, and largely determined by, the interests of those in power at any given time. It is argued that the criteria used to select the literature were shaped by explicit or implicit political agendas. The text lists served to construct, either consciously or unconsciously, a particluar kind of school subject and a specific type of subjectivity in the student. An examination of the ways in which these agendas operated in Ireland and Australia from colonial times reveals striking similarities and differences in how literature is viewed, how culture is represented, and how attitudes to issues such as class, gender and ethnicity are embedded in the English curriculum over time.