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William H. Gass Papers (MSS051)


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

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Material Towards Books

Manuscripts By Others

Personal Papers




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William H. Gass Papers (MSS051), 1948-2015 | MSS Manuscripts

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Collection Overview

Title: William H. Gass Papers (MSS051), 1948-2015Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1948-2015


Primary Creator: Gass, William (1924-)

Extent: 146.0 Boxes

Date Acquired: 07/19/1968

Languages: English, German, French

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The William H. Gass Papers consist largely of his own manuscript material: manuscripts and proof material toward his books, drafts of various stories, essays, and reviews, interviews, and a miscellaneous assortment of notes and other materials. Also present is a substantial amount of professional correspondence, primarily with universities, magazines, and publishers, as well as with his colleagues in academia and in the literary community.

Collection Historical Note

William Howard Gass (July 30, 1924 - December 6, 2017) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and former philosophy professor. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Gass grew up in Warren, Ohio, where he graduated from Warren G. Harding High School.  He has described his childhood as an unhappy one, with an abusive, racist father and a passive, alcoholic mother. He attended Wesleyan University, and then served as an Ensign in the Navy during World War II for three and a half years. He earned his A.B. in philosophy from Kenyon College in 1947 where he graduated magna cum laude. From there he entered Cornell University as a Susan Linn Fellow in philosophy and by 1954 had earned his PhD in that subject. His dissertation, "A Philosophical Investigation of Metaphor," was based on his training as a philosopher of language.

Gass taught at The College of Wooster for four years, Purdue University for sixteen, and Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a professor of philosophy (1969–1978) and the David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities (1979–1999). Since 2000, Gass has been the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities.  In 1990, Gass founded the International Writers Center at Washington University, whose purpose was to "build on the strengths of its resident and visiting faculty writers; to serve as a focal point for writing excellence in all disciplines and in all cultures; to be a directory for writers and writing programs at Washington University, in St. Louis, in the United States, and around the world; and to present the writer to the reader."

Gass’ first novel, Omensetter's Luck, about life in a small town in Ohio in the 1890s, was published in 1966. Critics praised his linguistic virtuosity, establishing him as an important writer of fiction. In 1968, he published In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, five stories dramatizing the theme of human isolation and the difficulty of love. That same year Gass published Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, an experimental novella illustrated with photographs and typographical constructs intended to help readers free themselves from the linear conventions of narrative. He has also published several collections of essays, including Fiction and the Figures of Life (1970) and Finding a Form (1996). Despite his prolific output, he has said that writing is difficult for him. In fact, his epic novel The Tunnel, published in 1995, took Gass twenty-six years to write.

Gass received many awards and honors, including grants from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1970. He won the Pushcart Prize awards in 1976, 1983, 1987, and 1992, and in 1994 he received the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Literature of the Midwest. In 1975, he received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction and the American Book Award for The Tunnel in 1997. In 2000, he was honored with the PEN/Nabokov award and the PEN/Nabokov Lifetime Achievement award which he has called his "most prized prize." Gass has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism three times, for Habitations of the Word (1985), Finding a Form (1997) and Tests of Time (2003).

Administrative Information

Repository: MSS Manuscripts

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Acquisition Source: Gift and purchase

Acquisition Method:

Accession number 954, Purchase from House of Books, July 19, 1968

Accession number 1027, Gift of William H. Gass, March 7, 1969

Accession number 1616, Purchase from unknown, April 11, 1984

Accession number 1862, Gift of William H. Gass, February 3, 1991

Accession number 1966, Gift of William H. Gass, December 27, 1992

Accession number 2146, Gift of William H. Gass, July 28, 1994

Accession number 2235, Gift of International Writers Center, October 10, 2000

Accession number 22925, Gift of William H. Gass, circa 1999

Accession number 22927, Gift of William H. Gass, circa 1994

Accession number 22984, Unknown

Accession number 23034, Gift of William H. Gass, August 1, 2004

Accession number 23038, Gift of William H. Gass, circa 2004

Accession number 23075, Unknown

Accession number 23084, Unknown, November 2005

Accession number 23890, Gift of Heide Ziegler, circa 2006

Accession number 23927, Gift of Lorin Cuoco, April 10, 2007

Accession number 23947, Purchase from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., November 2, 2009

Accession number 23964, Gift of Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., November 5, 2010

Accession number 2012.018, Transfer from University Archives, July 19, 2012

Accession number 2012.027, Gift of William H. Gass, November 15, 2012

Accession number 2012.029, Purchase from Between the Covers, November 21, 2012

Accession number 2013.034, Gift of William H. Gass, December 20, 2013

Accession number 2016-021, Gift of Thomas LeClair, September 30, 2016

Related Materials: See also the International Writers Center Archive (MSS059)

Preferred Citation: Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Manuscripts],
[Series 3: Material Towards Books],
[Series 4: Manuscripts By Others],
[Series 5: Personal Papers],
[Series 6: Ephemera],
[Series 7: Realia],
[Series 8: Audiovisual],
[Series 9: Print Materials],

Series 4: Manuscripts By OthersAdd to your cart.
Box 121Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Anderson, David D. - The Mark Twain Award for 1994, 1994Add to your cart.
Introduction for Gass. Typescript [photocopy], 2 pages
Folder 4: Drake, Dee - William Gass and His Worlds of Words: An Analogy With AlchemyAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 9 pages
Folder 5-7: Iowa ReviewAdd to your cart.
447 pages. Pieces submitted for Iowa Review volume edited by Gass
Folder 8: Johnson, Anne Janette - Gass, William H(oward) 1924-Add to your cart.
Biography sketch of Gass. Typescript [photocopy], 16 pages
Folder 9: Kellman, Steven G. - Prospectus for a Biography of Henry RothAdd to your cart.
Typescript, 5 pages. Includes bibliography of publications by Kellman
Folder 10: McClennen, E.F. - For the Purdue Exponent Add to your cart.
Typescript [carbon], 3 pages
Folder 11: Moxley, Joseph M. - Introduction to Creative Writing in America: An Appraisal of Theory and PedagogyAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 14 pages
Folder 12: O'Connell, Shaun - Review of Omensetter's LuckAdd to your cart.
Published in the Nation. Galley proofs. Located in oversize
Box 122Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Rorty, Richard - Tales of Two DisciplinesAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 23 pages.
Folder 2: Ryan, Dennis - Omensetter's LuckAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 5 pages
Folder 3: Saltzman, Arthur M. - William H. Gass, 2000Add to your cart.
Uncorrected master proof, 18 pages with typed letter signed, 1 page from Carol Fairman to Gass (2000: April 21). Master proof with corrections, 18 pages. Published in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Novelists Since World War II, Sixth Series, Volume 227
Folder 4: Shelnutt, Eve - Chapter 1: Notes From a Cell: Creative Writing Programs in IsolationAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 28 pages
Folder 5-6: Sontag, Susan - The Volcano LoverAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 244 pages. 2 folders
Folder 7: Thiel, Paul - Walk of Fame ReadingAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 1 page
Folder 8-9: UnidentifiedAdd to your cart.
Item 1: Series of sketches and autograph text [photocopy]Add to your cart.
30 pages
Item 2: About One GirlAdd to your cart.
Typescript [computer printout], 1 page
Item 3: "Caramello is a brave and brilliant critic."Add to your cart.
Autograph, 27 pages
Item 4: For Bill Gass [introduction]Add to your cart.
Typescript, 1 page
Item 5: "That's Gass, slight, delicately constructed, with hands too small..."Add to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 1 page
Item 6: "The publishing industry can no longer support quality fiction."Add to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 3 pages
Item 7: William GassAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 6 pages
Folder 10: Van Duyn, Mona - Mona & Jarvis Thurston Married August 31, 1943Add to your cart.
Broadside, 1 page with envelope
Folder 11: Ziegler, Heide - From the Introduction to the Panel Discussion on Recent American Literature between John Barth, William Gass, and John HawkesAdd to your cart.
Typescript [photocopy], 5 pages
Folder 12-13: Ziegler, Heide and Ball, Sally - The Review of Contemporary Fiction: William H. Gass (Fall 2004) and "William H. Gass" in Schreibheft (October 2004)Add to your cart.
221 pages. Includes correspondence

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Manuscripts],
[Series 3: Material Towards Books],
[Series 4: Manuscripts By Others],
[Series 5: Personal Papers],
[Series 6: Ephemera],
[Series 7: Realia],
[Series 8: Audiovisual],
[Series 9: Print Materials],

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