The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program

Through the "Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture Fund" and "Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Fund" (established by University alumnus, Robert Blais '70), a significant or culturally impactful book is chosen annually to be honored. The program engages the campus and local community through discussions, celebrations, related collections, a library exhibition, and culminates with the annual Birss Lecture.


2020 Selection - The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Cover of The Red Badge of Courage


We are pleased to announce that the book for the 20th annual John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program is The Red Badge of Courage. Celebrating its 125th anniversary, Stephen Crane’s classic novel is known for its early modernist portrayal of the Civil War, and its psychological perspectives on the mythmaking of heroism and cowardice. Still, in many respects, The Red Badge of Courage goes beyond history, suggesting relevance over a century later, by speaking to issues of our day, specifically, a country that is visibly divided along ideological lines, which, for many, seem irreconcilable. In revisiting The Red Badge of Courage, one can’t help but be prompted to ask, “Is our country broken?”


The 2020 selection held special place in the heart of John Howard Birss, Jr. In fact, alumnus Robert Blais (’70) who endowed the program, maintains a collection of Professor Birss’s research on The Red Badge of Courage – a fitting selection to celebrate twenty years of Birss programming at RWU.