Monique Allewaert

Monique Allewaert
Associate Professor
6131 Helen C. White Hall
E-mail Monique Allewaert
18th- and 19th-Century American literatures, Colonial and Postcolonial Theory, Ecocriticism, Political Theory

Degrees and Institutions

BA, English and Political Science, University of California, Irvine
MA, English, University of California, Santa Barbara
PhD, English, Duke University

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Scholarship and Current Projects

Professor Allewaert’s research integrates literary analysis with political and environmental theory to contribute to an American studies that attends to the flows and structures of colonialism that shape the Western hemisphere. This hemispheric orientation of the field develops through sub- and supra-national frames and problematics in an effort to uncover understandings of personhood, community, and place that were etiolated by earlier organizations of the field. Her book Ariel’s Ecology (University of Minnesota, 2013) argues that in the American plantation zone human bodies were experienced and mythologized not as integrated political subjects but as bodies in parts. She investigates how this experience and mythology of the body shaped art forms of the period, particularly Anglo European and Afro American travel writing as well as Afro American oral stories and fetishes, considering also the implications of this experience of the body for personhood and political life.  

Allewaert is currently working on a book that explores personification in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This book attempts to determine how and why the “weak” modes of agency at stake in metropolitan, colonial, and provincial modes of personification fell out of fashion in the late nineteenth century, and, along with them, the trope of personification. In addition to its historical and literary ambitions, this book proposes that the weak agencies of eighteenth and nineteenth century personifications are an earlier precedent of what twenty-first century theorists call “distributed agencies.” She suggests that we might look to this earlier period as a sort of convex mirror that allows us to consider the conditions under which weak agencies are liabilities and those under which they are assets.

Allewaert has several other projects underway, ranging from a study of the collation of environmental and colonial catastrophes in the eighteenth century Americas to the import of figuration to early American studies. She also serves on the editorial board for American Literature and Resilience


Allewaert’s scholarship and teaching derive from a belief that studying literature can inspire teachers and students to see and experience the world anew. Since receiving her Ph.D. from Duke in 2006, she has developed and taught over a dozen different courses in literature and theory that range from large lectures to small seminars, from introductory courses for freshmen and sophomores to graduate seminars. Her undergraduate classes include American Literary Cultures (English 243, the large lecture-format American Literature course), the Introduction to Poetry (currently being taught as an English 245 seminar), as well as courses on topics relating to Colonial American Literatures, Literature and the Environment, Literature and Science, Literary Figure (with particular attention to personification and synecdoche), and American Agencies.   



Recent Books

  • Ariel’s Ecology: Personhood and Colonialism in the American Tropics, 1760-1820

    Monique Allewaert

    University of Minnesota Press


    What happens if we abandon the assumption that a person is a discrete, world-making agent who acts on and creates place? This, Monique Allewaert contends, is precisely what occurred on eighteenth-century American plantations, where labor practices and ecological particularities threatened the literal and conceptual boundaries that separated persons from the natural world.