2024 Post45 Essay Prizes

April 1, 2024

The 2024 prize committee is delighted to announce the recipients of the inaugural Post45 Essay Prizes. From an extraordinary pool of submissions, we’ve selected seven honorees: two winners and three honorable mentions for the Mary Esteve Emerging Scholar Essay Prize and one winner and one honorable mention for the Post45 Prize for Contingent Scholars.

Following peer review, articles by all honorees will be published in a special prize issue of Post45 edited by the prize committee. For now, please see the citations below for a preview of this collection of exceptional new work in the field of postwar American literary studies.

Mary Esteve Emerging Scholar Essay Prize


Amanda Jennifer Su

The Dragon Lady and the Cold War
Pearl S. Buck’s Liberal Feminism in Imperial Woman

This essay brilliantly unearths a neglected episode in the history of postwar feminist thought and expression. Su compellingly argues that Pearl S. Buck’s orientalist romance about the Empress Dowager Cixi both anticipates a feminist critique of American gender ideology and reveals the complicity with liberal empire that would bedevil feminist thought in the decades to come. Su's essay is a subtle and lucid account of the far-reaching contradictions at the heart of a forgotten but richly complicated text.


Mitch Therieau

The Ambient Mode

Therieau's essay not only offers a tour-de-force reading of Alexandra Kleeman's Something New Under the Sun as the self-cli-fi of slow apocalypse, it also develops a capacious theory of the “ambient” as affect, style, and form. Reading ambience as the dissolving of climate “background” into daily “foreground,” this essay makes vital and original contributions to both ecocriticism and novel theory.

Honorable Mention

Michael Harrington

Wild West Fringe
The Cowboy's Queer Trace

Why did Lil Nas X go country? Harrington opens his bravura essay with this implicit question before diving into a vivid archive of "camp-cowboy imagery." Illuminating a rich cultural history from Owen Wister's The Virginian, to American Western cinema, and back to Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," Harrington brilliantly foregrounds the traces of queer and Black life that not only pervade, but establish, the image of the American cowboy.

Honorable Mention

Anna Moser

The Variant
Form as Deliberative Practice

What does it mean to make a choice? What kind of feminism is premised on the ideal feminist subject as she-who-choses? This innovative essay asks these questions through an analysis of formal refusals to choose. Drawing from a tradition of "the variant," from Emily Dickinson to Susan Howe, Moser argues that poetic form allows us to see the complexity of choosing: "the cancelled, withheld, displaced, or failed choice; the circumscribed choice; the choice that orients or disorients; the alternative that persists or elaborates; the pierced interval."

Honorable Mention

Christopher Spaide

Please, Please, Please

The Mourned Musician in Recent American Poetry

This beautiful, evocative essay limns the connection between elegy, lyric, and popular music by attending to poems about “mourned musicians.” Reading elegies by Terrence Hayes, Cathy Park Hong, and Tommy Pico, Spaide finds a reckoning with poetry’s own “insufficiency” as well as an overheard expression of collective grief–one that might attune us to the grievous history of racialized violence.

Post45 Essay Prize for Contingent Scholars


Marie Buck

For Malcolm and Embodied Collectivity in the Early Black Arts Movement

Through a consideration of the idiosyncratic 1967 anthology For Malcolm: Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X, this essay reevaluates the uses and possibilities of masculinity in 1960s Black cultural politics. Reading poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, LeRoi Jones, Etheridge Knight, and others, Buck powerfully argues that the rhetoric of masculinity in the Black Arts Movement moves beyond the idealization of patriarchy to become “a strategic metaphor” for the “communicability of revolutionary political affect.”

Honorable Mention

Emmy Waldman

Metamorphoses of the Spiral
Art Spiegelman's Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

This daring essay moves deftly between close readings of Spiegelman’s signature spiral motifs and ambitious arguments about his uptake and transformations of modernist literature and art. Waldman’s precise and erudite examination of Spiegelman’s spirals as doodles, ornaments, icons, and metaphors offers a remarkably coherent and original account of “the interrelation between the artist’s modernist affiliations and his filial commitments.”

Prize Committee

  • Nia Judelson (Emory University)
  • Sean McCann (Wesleyan University)
  • Annie McClanahan (University of California, Irvine)
  • Rachel Greenwald Smith (Saint Louis University)
  • Arthur Wang (University of Pennsylvania)

More information about the Post45 Essay Prizes

Winners receive a cash prize sponsored by current and past Post45 board members and a 2023 Open Access Award from the Open Library for Humanities.

The Mary Esteve Emerging Scholar Essay Prize is named in honor of two-time Post45 journal editor Mary Esteve to celebrate her commitment to the work of the journal and her generosity as an editor and reviewer. Winners and honorable mentions for the Mary Esteve Prize will receive a copy of Esteve’s Incremental Realism: Postwar American Fiction, Happiness, and Welfare-State Liberalism (2021)

All honorees will also receive a certificate and, courtesy of Stanford University Press, a copy of the latest publication in the Post45 Book Series (ed. Loren Glass and Kate Marshall): Adrienne Brown‘s The Residential is Racial: A Perceptual History of Mass Homeownership (March 2024).

2024 CFP