William Gass Papers ca.
Biographical / Historical Note
William Gass, born in Fargo, North Dakota, is one of the most critically acclaimed authors
of fiction and critical prose writing today. Trained as a philosopher--he received his
doctorate in philosophy from Cornell in 1954--Gass is a respected academic and popular
teacher at Washington University where he is David L. May Distinguished Professor in the
Gass' fiction has received critical praise from the outset of his career. His first novel,
Omensetter's Luck (1966), was heralded by
critics--Richard Gilman, in his review of the book for The New
Republic, went so far as to call it "the most important work of fiction by an
American in this literary generation"--and his subsequent work has received similar critical
response. Gass is equally important as a critic and his theory of fiction manifests itself
in both his criticism and his fiction. He is clearly aligned with that group of authors and
theorists who view language and writing itself as the ultimate subject matter of literature.
Thus plot, narrative, character, etc.--the traditional concerns of fiction writers--are used
by Gass to explore the nature of language, as one might expect from an author whose best
known critical works are The World within the Word (1978)
and Habitations of the Word (1985).