The Michael Camille Essay Prize is a biennial essay contest co-sponsored by postmedieval, Palgrave Macmillan, and the BABEL Working Group.

Launched in 2012, the prize is awarded for the best short essay (4,000-6,000 words) on a variable theme that brings the medieval and the modern into productive critical relation. The competition is open to early career researchers: those currently in M.A./Ph.D. programs or within 5 years of having received the Ph.D. Essays in all disciplines are encouraged.

The prize is named after Michael Camille (1958-2002), the brilliant art historian whose work on medieval art exemplified playfulness, a felicitous interdisciplinary reach, a restless imagination, and an avidness to bring the medieval and modern into vibrant, dialogic encounter. In addition, we wish to honor Camille for his attention to the fringes of medieval society, to the liminal, excluded, ‘subjugated rabble,’ and disenfranchised, and to the socially subversive powers of medieval artists who worked on and in the margins. The prize is also named after Camille because his work was often invested in exploring ‘the prism of modernity through which the Middle Ages is constructed’ and because, as his colleague at the University of Chicago Linda Seidel said shortly after his death, he had ‘a mind like shooting stars.’

The prize is adjudicated by a panel of scholars selected from postmedieval’s editorial board, and the winner is announced at the BABEL Working Group biennial conference. The prize winner receives: publication in postmedieval, 250 dollars, and one year's free print and online subscription to the journal. Runners-up receive one year's free print and online subscription to the journal and will be considered for publication in the journal.

2016 Michael Camille Essay Prize winner

2016 theme: Atmospheric Medievalisms/Medieval Atmospheres

Essays were requested that might take up eco-critical and/or climatological approaches to medieval culture and/or studies in medievalisms, or that might address affect and/or “public feelings” and cultural “moods” in medieval culture or in appropriations of medieval culture in later periods, or might even work through ideas of an “ambient Middle Ages” or an “ambient medievalism.” Essays could have also addressed “climate” and “environment” and “weather” as metaphors for tracing particular intellectual histories of studies in medievalism, or they might have discussed the “spherical,” “aerial,” and/or transmigratory climates of globally-inflected medieval studies.

WINNER

Chloé M. Pelletier, PhD student in Art History (University of Chicago)

“The Pilgrim’s Badge: Water, Air, and the Flow of Sacred Matter”

JUDGES

Craig Dionne (Early Modern Literature, Eastern Michigan University)

Ben Tilghman (Medieval Art History, Lawrence University)

Elizabeth Upton (Medieval Musicology, UCLA)

Michelle Warren (Medieval Comparative Studies, Dartmouth College)

What the judges said:

This essay deftly blended visual evidence, object history, theories of materiality, and historical practice into an evocative discussion of an understudied group of objects. As did the best of Michael Camille's work, it illustrated how a sensitive understanding of contemporary theory can help us to perceive latent meanings in a work, and also how eloquent writing can make a scholarly argument more deeply felt.”

RUNNER-UP

Chris Adamson, PhD student in English (Emory University)

“The Compromised Chronotope of Christminster: Hardy and Hopkins’s Incarnate Past,”

What the judges said:

Of Adamson’s essay, one of the judges wrote, “a beautifully written essay uncovering interesting tropes these two astonishing minds share in their revision and invention of the medieval past.”

PREVIOUS PRIZE WINNERS

2014 Michael Camille Essay Prize winner

2014 theme: Medievalism and the Margins

WINNER

S. J. Pearce, New York University, Department of Spanish and Portugese

"Poetry on the Edge: Modern Medievalism's Marginal Verses".Pearce's essay appeared in postmedieval 6.2, in the special issue edited by David Hadbawnik and Sean Reynolds on "Contemporary Poetics and the Medieval Muse."

JUDGES

Steven Kruger, Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center

Anna Klosowska, Miami University

Kathleen Biddick, Temple University

Asa Simon Mittman, California State University, Chico

What the judges said:

This essay is a preliminary examination of the relationship between prose and poetry in the work of modern editors of medieval texts, work that typically separates out the two modes of writing, even where they coexist unitarily in the source materials. The principal vehicle for this examination is a unicum manuscript (Bodl. Mich. MS 50) of a twelfth-century Hebrew ethical will written by Judah ibn Tibbon, a Granada-born translator of Arabic philosophical and religious texts who spent most of his adult life in exile in the Provençal city of Lunel. The will is written in both prose and verse; the late medieval/early modern scribe's decision to consign the prosodic portions of the text to a margin running down the outer edge of the page is evocative of the unease that subsequent students and editors of this and other texts produced by the Islamicate culture of Spain would confront when editing those texts for modern readers. By responding to this manuscript's provocation of format, the essay stakes out the ground for future and continuing discussion of the marginal place of poetry with respect to the related prose in modern and contemporary scholarship.

2012 Michael Camille Essay Prize Winner

In 2012, the theme was 'Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity,' and there was a First Place essay ('Lions and Latour Litanies in the Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt,' by Haylie Swenson) and two Runners-up ('Time Mechanics: The Modern Geoffrey Chaucer and the Medieval Jack Spicer,' by David Hadbawnik, and 'From Medieval Saint to Modern Bête Noire: The Case of the Vitæ Æthelwoldi,' by Alison Hudson). The judges for the contest were Anne Harris (DePauw University), Robert Mills (University College London), Michael Moore (University of Iowa), and Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, CUNY). In response to Haylie's essay, the judges said that it 'makes an important contribution to object-oriented philosophies, critical animal studies, and indeed the ethics of the artistic encounter. This essay brims with original ideas, shedding new light on Villard de Honnecourt's Sketchbook and presenting one of the most sensitive readings of Villard's lion to date The author strikes a wonderfully Camillesque balance between visual analysis, verbal dexterity, and critical insight. The essay breaks free of longstanding debates over whether Villard drew his lions from life by reading his humanoid lion as an encounter with the unnervingly direct gaze of an agentic other, a strange, predatory, and ultimately unrepresentable thing. Villard's lion can now be understood as an artistic, powerful object in its own right, representing the unfathomable, even dangerous depths of any artistic object or any object, leonine, human, or otherwise. Finally, the essay makes a timely contribution to debates in animal/posthuman studies, fields in which postmedieval takes a special interest.