Literary works are read and studied in English across the different parts of the Swedish education system, primary education, secondary education, higher education and teacher education. This article considers the rationale—the purposes and benefits—for doing so that are implicitly or explicitly pointed to in curricular documents, with special focus on the kinds of engagement with literature that are authorised by the academic English subject community for the Swedish academic and school contexts. By juxtaposing and synthesising findings from three previous curricular studies, the article identifies substantive justifications and, drawing on linguistic legitimation theory, discursive forms of legitimation that interoperate in syllabi and in other steering documents to claim the validity of engaging with literature in English. It shows that the rationale that remains constant across the education system relies on the links between literature and cultural learning, or analysis, and likewise on the potential of engagement with literature in English for furthering an understanding of the world and for fostering a desired democratic citizen ethos. The cross-educational perspective of the article shows that the interdependence between the different parts of the education system has both thematic and conceptual consequences for the kinds of engagement with literature that are given the status of official legitimations.