In the second half of the last century, the teaching of English literature was very much influenced and, in some places, entirely dominated by the ideas of F. R. Leavis. What was it like to be taught by this iconic figure? How and why did one become a Leavisite? In this unique book, part memoir, part study of Leavis, David Ellis takes himself as representative of that pool of lower middle class grammar school pupils from which Leavisites were largely recruited, and explores the beliefs of both the Leavises, their lasting impact on him and why ultimately they were doomed to failure. At the heart of this book are questions about what English should and can be that are by no means finally settled.