Medievalist, litterateur, folklorist. Born in Goffstown, New Hampshire, Gerould was
educated at Dartmouth College (A.B. 1899) and Oxford University (B.Litt. 1901). In
1901 he was appointed reader in literature at Bryn Mawr College; in 1905 he was named
preceptor at Princeton University, where in 1938 he became Holmes Professor of Belles
Lettres and from 1942 to 1946 he served as chairman of the Department of English.
He was a member of the Medieval Academy and also served as a vice president of the
Modern Language Association of America.
Known to folklorists primarily through two of his books—The Grateful Dead: The
History of a Folk Story (1908) and The Ballad of Tradition (1932)—he taught the full
range of English literature and published a definitive study of saints’ legends (Gerould
1916), translations of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as well as How to
Read Fiction (1934) and The Patterns of English and American Fiction (1942). He also
published four novels.
The Grateful Dead served as a model for folktale study among students of literature
and was influential in the development of the “historic-geographic” school of folktale
study. The Ballad of Tradition was the first explicit statement of the theory of communal
re-creation, and for four decades it served as a substitute for the introduction that Francis
James Child never wrote to The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882—1895). It
remains the most influential of all introductions to the ballad genre.
Gerould, Gordon Hall. 1916. Saints’ Legends. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
——. 1952. Chaucerian Essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.