British and U.S. literature equally good, say half of readers

May 29, 2014, 2:25 PM GMT+0

49% of people who have read a book in the past 12 months say American and British literature are as good as each other – but 36% prefer British writing

The proposed set texts for GCSE English literature of two UK exam boards now do not include any American authors. The syllabus will instead contain Shakespeare, 19th Century classics by authors such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and "fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards". Academics have protested that American works previously on the syllabus, such as John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, were suitable because they appealed to a wide range of talents. Authors also suggested it is wrong to divide literature into “nationalistic categories”.

A new YouGov survey finds that 49% of people who have read and finished a book for pleasure in the past year (74% of the total) say that American and British literature are equally good. 36%, however, say that British literature is actually better. Only 3% prefer American literature.

Among all British adults (including those who haven't read a book recently), 43% say American and British literature are equally good, while 35% say British literature is better and 2% prefer American writing.

While the Department for Education stress that new requirements do not amount to a ban, and claim that in the past GCSE English literature was “not rigorous enough”, AQA argue that although "technically it would not be impossible to add additional texts beyond the essential requirements, to do so would place an unacceptable assessment burden on teachers and students".

See the full poll results