The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program 2020

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.



Dr. Christopher Benfey – Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Keynote Lecture: Fiction, Life, and The Red Badge of Courage

Date: Thursday, March 5, 2020
Time: 4:30 PM
Place: Mary Tefft White Cultural Center, University Library


Christopher Benfey is the author of five highly regarded books about the American Gilded Age including The Double Life of Stephen Crane (1992) and A Summer of Hummingbirds. His most recent book, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2019. Also a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Benfey is a Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Humanities fellow. He holds the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.

For more information visit our Research Guide

To see selected images/letters from the exhibition please see the exhibition gallery

Schedule of Events

February 6, 2020 - Exhibition Opening - Mary Tefft White Cultural Center (4:30 PM)
A celebration of the library exhibition: “Stephen Crane & The Red Badge of Courage
Open during library hours through March 31st, 2020

February 26, 2020 - Reading Group - Rogers Free Library, Bristol (3:00PM & 7:00 PM)
Community-wide discussions of the book hosted by Bristol’s public library.

February 27, 2020 - Finding Poetry, Finding Crane - Rogers Free Library, Bristol (4PM-6PM)
A found poetry writing workshop using the language of The Red Badge of Courage

March 5, 2020 - Keynote Lecture, Fiction, Life, and The Red Badge of Courage - Mary Tefft White Cultural Center (4:30PM)
Keynote Lecture by Christopher Benfey