In Literary Theory: an Introduction, when author Terry Eagleton talks about The Rise of English (see pg 22-24), he means the rise of teaching English literature as an academic subject (not the rise of the English language in colonial environments). English Universities were still teaching the literary Classics,...
In Literary Theory: an Introduction, when author Terry Eagleton talks about The Rise of English (see pg 22-24), he means the rise of teaching English literature as an academic subject (not the rise of the English language in colonial environments). English Universities were still teaching the literary Classics, being Greek and Latin literature. Colleges for the male working class, called Mechanics’ Institutes, began, under the aegis of proponents like F.D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley (23), to teach English novels as a way of delivering what Eagleton calls a “poor man’s Classics” education that had, per Maurice’s and Kingley’s theory, a serious social objective. This objective was, as Eagleton describes it, to instill (1) solidarity between social classes (as opposed to class divisiveness and notable distinction due to differences in deportment); (2) the development of “larger sympathies,” which would be for ideas outside their own immediate life experience; (3) the growth of national pride and the “transmission of ‘moral values’.”
Eagleton also contends that pre-19th century English literature espoused “timeless truths, thus distracting the masses from their immediate commitments, nurturing in them a spirit of tolerance and generosity” with the narrow aim of “ensuring the survival of private property” [bear in mind that Eagleton writes Marxist literary criticism]. Nineteenth century literature, according to Eagleton, abandoned the concept of timelessness in literature and emphasized personal feeling and experience and ideological dogmas. Pre-19th century writers’ beliefs, he contends, were “reasoned positions rather than ideological dogmas.” Nineteenth century literature, on the other hand, became a platform for explicating ideological dogma and the feelings of experience, eventually becoming exclusively emotive rather than analytical (moving from personal moral value to social moral value) (22). (Eagleton’s example (23) for this concept of a shift from analytical to emotive is: “the truth or falsity of beliefs such as that blacks are inferior to whites is less important [to those following after Dante, Milton and Pope] than what it feels like to experience them.”)
Eagleton ties the introduction of English (literature) as an academic subject to another shift, an “historic shift in the very meaning of the term ‘moral’,” that took the meaning of moral away from a “code or explicit ethical system” to a meaning encompassing the “whole quality of life itself with an emphasis on human experience.” This takes Eagleton’s argument full circle back to his assertion that 19th century English literature, which became an academic subject, abandoned timeless, immortal ideas and embraced what the experience of ideas felt like, which ties to colonialism because the experiential approach could inculcate English citizens of all classes with the ideology that the colonial policies were elevating the colonized peoples and bringing them out of a Dark Ages into an Enlightenment, e.g., Kipling’s short stories like “Beyond the Pale.”
For more information, see Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton (p 22-24), from which I've taken this answer.