William H. Gass: The Soul Inside the Sentence


Welcome to the digital companion to the "William H. Gass: The Soul Inside the Sentence" exhibition in Olin Library, March - July 2013, examining the life and work of William H. Gass, an esteemed American novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, photographer and former philosophy professor.

Explore drafts of published and unpublished writings, recordings of his interviews and readings, photographs and scans of important documents and objects that have shaped his life. You will also find an essay, "My Memories of the Service," which Gass wrote specifically for this digital exhibit.

Click here find out more about William H. Gass and his literary papers at Washington University Libraries Special Collections.

Use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of each page to reach Joel Minor, the curator of the Modern Literature Collection, if you have questions, requests, rights concerns, etc.

To navigate the digital exhibit, click on the category you wish to see, then one of the subcategories that will appear below the main categories. Select an item below the subcategories to see its metadata and to view it up close. Click on the banner to return to the main page.


Created by Joel Minor and Sarah Schnuriger. Design work and technical support by Shannon Davis. Special thanks to William and Mary Gass for their donations and loan that made this digital exhibit possible.


Formative Years

Objects, documents and other materials related to Gass' education before and after World War II and his U.S. Navy experience during the war.

Teaching and IWC

Materials covering Gass' career as a professor of philosophy at The College of Wooster, Purdue University, and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as director of the International Writers Center.

Fiction Books

Drafts, correspondence and other materials related to Gass's first novel, Omensetter's Luck, the short fiction collection, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, the post-modern essay-novella, Willie Master's Lonesome Wife, the philosophical novella collection, Cartesian Sonata, and the latest novel, Middle C.

Fiction: The Tunnel

Artwork, drafts, recordings, and much more, covering the multi-faceted history behind Gass's second novel, considered his magnum opus, which was in development for almost thirty years.

Nonfiction Books

Drafts, awards, advertisements, photographs and other materials from Gass's many nonfiction books of etymological essays, literary criticism, biographical sketches, poetry translations and philosophical musings.

Other Writing

Materials related to Gass's uncollected essays, unpublished short stories, and published poems and letters to editors.


Photographs of and by Gass, and texts written by Gass in collaboration with friend and professional photographer, Michael Eastman.


Materials related to Gass's involvement with literary organizations, committees, commissions, juries, etc., including River Styx and the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Also materials from Gass's friendship with Stanley Elkin, William Gaddis and others.

Interviews and Articles

A sampling of the many interviews with Gass and articles on Gass and his books that have appeared over the years.

Awards and Honors

Examples of the numerous awards and honors Gass has received.

Bibliophilia and Influences

Materials showing the centrality of books to Gass's life and work in general, and of certain writers in particular.

Speaking Engagements

Samples of invitations, programs, drafts, etc. from the hundreds of speaking enagements (lectures, panels, addresses, readings) Gass has participated in.


Photographs and drawings of Gass.