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Remembering William H. Gass: Resources for Exploring a Life in Sentences – Part 2

William Gass, speaking at Washington University’s Graham Chapel, March 1969 – University Archives

The Modern Literature Collection is pleased to announce that Washington University in St. Louis will be hosting a tribute to the life and work of William H. Gass. The event will take place on April 6th, 2018 on Washington University’s Danforth campus. More details, including special guests and speakers, will be made available in coming weeks. For now, save the date!

This second installment of our ongoing series on William H. Gass presents video and audio recordings of readings, talks, and interviews given by Gass, from the archives of the Modern Literature Collection, which can also be found on our YouTube channel, and at The Soul Inside the Sentence, a digital exhibit on the work of William H. Gass. Further recordings held in the Modern Literature Collection not currently available online can be searched in the finding aid for the Recorded Multimedia Collection.

Gass prided himself as a reader of his own work, and devoted as much care to public readings as he did to his writing. We are excited to be able to share some examples of this aspect of his craft.


On September 28th, 2014 Washington University in St. Louis hosted a reading by William Gass in celebration of the author’s 90th Birthday. In the reading Gass draws on fiction from throughout his career, creating an overview of his life’s work.

In April of 2013, William H. Gass, gave a reading at Washington University in St. Louis in honor of the publication of his third and final novel, Middle C.

Stanley Elkin and William Gass discuss the evolution of Elkin’s “mythic mode” in a 1982 Warner Amex Qube Production.


In this clip, William H. Gass reads “A Fugue”, an excerpt of The Tunnel, from the complete audio recording Gass made of the novel for the Dalkey Archive Press, in 1998.

In this clip, we present an excerpt from “Habitations of the Word”, one of many lectures William Gass gave during his time as a professor, given in 1983 in Hurst Lounge at Washington University in St. Louis.

William Gass was known not only for his writings but for his skill at giving introductions. In this excerpt from the conference “The Writer and Religion”, in 1994, Gass introduces his longtime friend and fellow novelist William Gaddis.

William H. Gass around the web

Beyond our own collections, there is a wealth of readings, lectures, and interviews available on the internet, many of which can be found on YouTube. Some notable examples include a recording, via the University of Cincinnati, of the famous 1978 debate between William Gass and John Gardner on the nature and purpose of fiction, and a recording, from the University of North Dakota, of Gass reading the piece “We Have Not Lived The Right Life” in 1975, later incorporated as a portion of The Tunnel, the transcript of which can be found at the University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference webpage.

We invite you to explore the words and worlds of William H. Gass, and to stay tuned for further posts and updates.