William (“Bill”) Gray was Professor of Literary History and Hermeneutics at the University of Chichester and Founder of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, as well as its accompanying journal, Gramarye.
After growing up in Parkhead in the East End of Glasgow, his first degree was in Modern Languages at Christ Church, Oxford. There he discovered German Romantic fairy tales while studying with David Luke, who was then working on his Penguin translation of Grimms’ Tales.
Having been existentially challenged by Kleist, Büchner and Sartre, Bill went on to study theology and philosophy at Edinburgh and Princeton, where he took Walter Kaufmann’s course on Nietzsche and a doctoral seminar on Gadamer’s recently translated Truth and Method—a book on which he subsequently wrote his PhD thesis, and which has informed his subsequent teaching and writing.
At Chichester Bill taught Religious Studies before getting increasingly involved in teaching Related Arts (including a multidisciplinary course on different versions of ‘Bluebeard’ from Bartok to Pina Bausch via Angela Carter) as well as English (including his popular elective ‘Other Worlds: Fantasy Literature for Children of All Ages’).
He has published on literature, philosophy and theology, with books on C.S. Lewis and Robert Louis Stevenson. His most recent works include Fantasy, Myth and the Measure of Truth: Tales of Pullman, Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald and Hoffmann and two volumes of collected essays entitled Death and Fantasy and Fantasy, Art and Life. An edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Fables and Fairy Tales is forthcoming on Edinburgh University Press.
He has written for newspapers, appeared on radio, TV and other media to discuss his research. He has been invited to advise, consult and comment on numerous fairy tale and fantasy productions, including the Snow White and the Huntsman film (for which he served as “Mythic and Folklore advisor” to Universal Pictures), an adaptation of George MacDonald’s The Light Princess at the National Theatre, and a production of Cendrillon at the Royal Opera House.
He retired from the University of Chichester in December 2016. He died on 8th April 2019. Obituaries, notices and tributes can be found at the Guardian, the Times Higher Education, the Folklore journal, The Folklore Society, the University of Chichester, the Chichester Observer, Christ Church, Oxford and the University of Edinburgh. A selection of memories, quotes and pictures about his life and work can be found here.
For enquiries related to his work you can email his family here.