About the Michael Camille Essay Prize

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.

The 2014 theme is MEDIEVALISM AND THE MARGINS - conceptualized and imagined in any way the author sees fit. The submissions deadline July 31, 2014.


2012 Michael Camille Essay Prize winner

2012 theme: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity


Haylie Swenson, George Washington University
"Lions and Latour Litanies in The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt"


David Hadbawnik, University at Buffalo, SUNY
"Time Mechanics: The Modern Geoffrey Chaucer and the Medieval Jack Spicer"

Alison Hudson, Oriel College, University of Oxford
"Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity: The Case of the Vitae Æthelwoldi"


Anne Harris, DePauw University
Robert Mills, University College London
Michael Moore, University of Iowa
Karl Steel, Brooklyn College, CUNY

What the judges said:

Twenty wonderful papers were put forward as finalists for the first-ever biennial Michael Camille Essay Prize awarded by postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, Palgrave Macmillan and the BABEL Working Group. A panel of four judges reviewed the anonymous manuscripts and came to this decision: Haylie Swenson's "Lions and Latour Litanies in The Sketchbook of Villard de Honneocourt" 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.