Education Secretary Michael Gove has hit back at "culture warriors" who he says have wrongly accused him of banning modern American novels from the GSCE syllabus.
Responding in an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Gove denied that he had banned American authors in general or John Steinbeck's 1937 novella Of Mice And Men in particular.
Commenting on exam board OCR's Paul Dodd's claim, the former journalist replied that he had "read and loved" Of Mice And Men and To Kill A Mockingbird as a child.
"Just because one chap at one exam board claimed I didn't like Of Mice And Men, the myth took hold that it - and every other pesky American author - had been banned," he said.
An organisation representing English teachers has launched a scathing attack on the new GCSE curriculum, claiming it will put teenagers off studying literature.
The new syllabus will not include several classic American works, including John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, reportedly at the insistence of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
The chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English, Bethan Marshall, told the Sunday Times: “It’s a syllabus out of the 1940s and rumour has it Michael Gove, who read literature, designed it himself. Schools will be incredibly depressed when they see it."
She argued that studying 19th century British works would deter students from continuing with the subject, saying: "Kids will be put off doing A-level literature by this. Many teenagers will think that being made to read Dickens aged 16 is just tedious. This will just grind children down.”
Classic novels by American authors such as John Steinbeck and Harper Lee are to be taken off the GCSE English curriculum after Education Secretary Michael Gove reportedly insisted teenagers should study more works by British authors.
Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and the Arthur Miller play The Crucible are among the books that have been taken off the list.
The new curriculum will be unveiled this week and the Sunday Times (£) reports that three quarters of the books will be by Britons, with the majority written before the 20th century.
“[Steinbeck's] Of Mice and Men, which Michael Gove really dislikes, will not be included. It was studied by 90% of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past,” exam board OCR said.
However they also pointed out that between 70-80% of the work studied on the current curriculum are by British authors.
Details of new GCSEs in English and Maths as well as a new numbered grading system were revealed today under radical reforms.Read the full story ›
Teenagers studying English Literature will have to study at least 15 poems at GCSE, including works by authors such as Wordsworth, Byron and Keats, under a major shake-up of the exams.
Details of new GCSEs in English and Maths - due to be taught in schools from September 2015 - were unveiled by the Department of Education today.
In future, pupils will be required to learn poems by no fewer than five poets - and to study 300 lines of poetry at a minimum.
Youngsters will also be told they must "broaden their knowledge of literature" and read widely to prepare for unseen texts in exam papers.
The new Maths GCSE will also be "bigger in content", and more challenging and will include new sections on ratio, proportion and rate of change.
The Department for Education hailed the new GCSEs as more "challenging, ambitious and rigorous".
One student told ITV News that a greater focus on exams under the new GCSE system would be better than having regular assessments.
Kevin Judd, 15, said: "You haven't got loads of work to do throughout the year, you just revise once and get the exam out the way."
He also thought the new number grading system for GCSEs would be better for students in the long run, because scoring 6 or 7 out of 9 could seem like more of an achievement than receiving a C or a D grade under the present regime.
Changes to the GCSE exam system could prove "detrimental" to children who struggle to perform under pressure, according to one headteacher.
Speaking to ITV News, Andrew Keeley said he believes one off exams are poor for students, and that a modular system combined with coursework enables students with different abilities to succeed.
The Headteacher of St Chad's school said the plan to change the grading system to numbers could cause a significant period of confusion, which may be damaging to students and employers.
The new exam system may cause confusion for future employers, according to one student.
Georgie Urmson, who is preparing to take her GCSEs, said employers may favour students who take exams under the new system because of the perception that exams are more challenging.
The 16-year-old also suggested that taking one exam at the end of the year is unfair on students who find exams difficult but are intelligent in other aspects of learning.
The new GCSE system will free students from constant assessment and help them understanding subjects better, said the head of exam regulator Ofqual.
Glenys Stacey, Ofqual's chief regulator, told the BBC that focusing more on final exams means time can be "freed up so that students can actually learn and become competent in their subjects".
She added: "at the momnet too many students of whatever ability are sitting too many assessments".
The new numbers-based system for grading GCSEs will help less able students while making it easier to spot the most talented, said the head of the qualifications regulator Ofqual.
Glenys Stacey, Ofqual's chief regulator, said the move from eight gradings to nine means assessors "get a little bit more selection, which is particularly helpful at the top of the scale".
She told the BBC's Today programme that focusing more on final exams and less on modules would benefit the less able student, because "he's not going to be weighed down by assessment after assessment."