David Holbrook offers a foundation for the teaching of English that differs fundamentally from the recent fashions of the teaching of the subject which divert the subject into political or sociological ends.
He believes that the study of great literature refines and contributes to sensibility and intelligence. To that end he quotes Ernst Cassirer and invokes the theories of Susanne Langer, Marjorie Grene, and Michael Polanyi, who find symbolism as the basis for civilised life. He further explores this feature in the work of psychologists such as Edmund Husserl, D.W. Winnicott and Irwin D. Yalom.
David Holbrook's approach is at variance with that of his sometime teacher, F.R. Leavis, and he demonstrates his own methods with such works as Coleridge's `Frost and Midnight'; Arnold's `Dover Beach', and Dicken's `Great Expectations'.