Twelve years after The Habitations of the Word, and one year after Gass's fiction magnum opus, The Tunnel, the next Gass collection of essays appeared, titled Finding a Form. In it, Gass tackles literary and philosophical heavy weights like Robert Walser, Ford Madox Ford, Fredrich Nietszche and Ezra Pound, and muses on autobiography, beauty, nature, the cosmos, and the book as a container of consciousness, among other topics. As for Habitations of the Word, he was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

Gass had by this time become a regular contributor to Harper's Magazine, and eventually he became a contributing editor. The essay "Autobiography" first appeared in Harper's Magazine as "The Art of Self: Autobiography in the Age of Narcissism. Shown here is an early manuscript draft--somewhat rare in the William H. Gass Papers--of the essay, as well as a version published in the first Washington University Modern Literature Collection newsletter.