The nature of English as a school subject – and particularly English literature – is a longstanding issue of debate for practitioners and researchers internationally. One dimension of this concerns the forces that shape the diet of literary texts that students are fed. In this study, we draw on the ecological model of agency to interrogate the factors which influence how teachers choose literary texts for whole class teaching. Dimensions of agency are used as lenses to reveal the complex ways in which values and beliefs, structures of authority, material resources, and identities shape the selection of books, plays and poetry that are taught in English. By looking across these dimensions, we identify important questions which contribute to the debate: who should have agency to choose the texts taught; how does teacher agency influence students’ experiences of English literature; how far should we expect these experiences to be standardised?