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07/23/2014 | Created by Darla Martin Tucker

The 18th century tale of shipwrecked Englishman Robinson Crusoe so captured Lora Geriguis’ attention during her first class as a graduate student that it influenced the trajectory of her academic career.

Lora Geriguis, associate professor of English and department chair recently published a book chapter on the writings of Daniel Defoe. (Photos by Natan Vigna)
Lora Geriguis speaks during the English department's annual Natures Conference earlier this year.

The fictional autobiography written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719, as well as the writings of noted Defoe scholars, inspired the La Sierra University associate English professor to specialize in 18th century British literature with a particular focus on Defoe’s writings. She pursued years of work on Defoe’s travel novels, served as a submission evaluator for online scholarly journal “Digital Defoe,” and presented papers and organized panels for the Defoe Society.

But the effort that brought perhaps the greatest satisfaction culminated this year in a book chapter on Defoe’s “Captain Singleton.” Geriguis’ chapter was published along with chapters written by the same Defoe scholars who influenced her as a graduate student and whose works she has used in her teaching and research, in particular John Richetti, a Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundation fellow, and Maximillian Novak, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, among many others.

“I was thrilled to have my work published alongside authors whose work I had been reading since my earliest days in graduate school,” Geriguis said,” critics who had first inspired me to specialize in the fields of British literature, and whom I had been using in my teaching and research throughout my career.”

Geriguis’ chapter titled “A Vast Howling Wilderness’: Space and Placelessness in Defoe’s Captain Singleton” appears in the book “Topographies of Imagination: New Approaches to Daniel Defoe." AMS Press published the work which is edited by Katherine Ellison, Kit Kincade and Holly Faith Nelson. (

Geriguis’ chapter incorporates her more recent interests in ecocriticism which involves the study of the portrayal of nature in culture. In critiquing “Captain Singleton,” a story about a seafaring boy who later crosses Africa and lives as a pirate, Geriguis discusses the “coming together of the dry and wet journeys, the combining of land and sea elements to create a complete ecology.”

In summary Geriguis writes, “Reading Captain Singleton through the lens of ecocriticism concentrates critical attention on the interconnectivity of all the elements impacted by colonial domination – humans, animals, plants, and lands – and thereby undercuts the chain-of-being hierarchy undergirding colonial identity politics. …Ecocriticism reveals that these elemental components symbiotically (rather then merely symbolically) link the seemingly disparate parts of nature, and the novel, to one another.”

Geriguis became connected with the book project in August 2010 when she submitted an abstract of a chapter in response to a CFP, or call for papers posted by the book’s editors on the University of Pennsylvania’s CFP site. Intrigued by the ecocritical aspects of her proposal, the editors gave Geriguis approximately six months to write a full chapter focused on Defoe’s “Captain Singleton.”

“I couldn’t believe that academics would do that to each other,” Geriguis commented. “It was very challenging to have to write the chapter over the course of the winter and spring quarter, but I simply dug in my heels and was determined to get it done.”

The publishers had planned to issue the book in 2012, but challenges pushed the publication date to 2014. “My inclusion in this book was clearly the high point of my professional experience to date,” Geriguis said. “The editors and other contributors to the book are among the most important scholars of not only Defoe studies, but of 18th century studies more broadly.”