Bethany Wiggin received her B.A. from Swarthmore College and her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Her interests lie in the intersections between the early modern period and contemporary theoretical concerns, including global and transnational literature, translation and multilingualism, and sex and gender studies. While grounded in the cultural and political landscape of central Europe, her work increasingly charts global trajectories.
Her first book—entitled Novel Translations: The European Novel and the German Book, 1680-1730 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 2011)—explores the new worlds opened to the imagination when reading first became a form of entertainment. This long process first blossomed with the creation of a transnational (French, English, and German) novel in the decades around 1700, a popular genre born of a boom in literary commerce.
Her second book—Germanopolis: Utopia Lost and Found in Penn's Woods, 1683-1763 (College Park, PA: Penn State UP, forthcoming 2014)—investigates competing accounts of colonial Pennsylvania's past and future. The colony's legacy became a contest of pacifists versus imperialists, "sectarians" (Quakers, Mennonites, and seemingly countless others) versus "Churchmen" (Anglicans and Presbyterians, Lutherans and Calvinists), sometimes between English and German, and, more ominously, between "red" and "white," and between slavery's critics and its apologists.
She has recently begun research for a third book whose working title is World Literatures Before Goethe and which explores border-crossing, multlingual narratives from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries.
She is also at work on three edited collections:
- The first, Un/Translatables: New Maps for Germanic Literatures, represents a collaboration with Penn German co-editors Daniel DiMassa, Catriona MacLeod, and Nicholas Theis; and it originates in the conference they organized at Penn in 2011. It is under contract with Northwestern University Press.
- The second, Contesting Empire in Eighteenth-Century Pennsylvania, originates in a conference organized by Wiggin and co-sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania in December 2012.
- The third is a co-edited collection planned with Elio Brancaforte, Jane Newman, and Ann Marie Rasmussen, and in cooperation with the Society for German Renaissance and Baroque Literature (SGRABL). It is entitled Corpora: Textual and Sexual Bodies in Pre-Modern German Literature and Culture and shall feature essays selected from SGRABL panels sponsored at the SCSC 2013, MLA 2014, and RSA 2014.
Other recent publications include “World Literature and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Amsterdam, Leipzig, 1701,” in Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies (May 2013); "Globalization and the Work of Fashion" in the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies; four articles on eighteenth-century German American colonials and their Atlantic world; articles on the emergence of consumer culture in Europe, the invention of fashion, German coffee consumption, and poet Andreas Gryphius.
Recent courses and seminars include graduate seminars on "Early Modern Utopian Writing," "Early Modern Cultural Translation," "Theory and Practice of the Novel," "Foreign Exchanges, Germany and the East," "Writing Amerika," and "Baroque Models of Authority." For first-year graduate students, she also regularly teaches the proseminar "German Literature to the Eighteenth Century."
She is an ardent proponent of Humanities education for all, and in the spring of 2013 she taught Sustainability and Utopianism, a seminar that considered what art and literature can do to combat climate change. Wiggin's interview about the course, "Leading the Green," appeared this summer in the Penn Sustainability Review. This innovative course, to be taught again in 2014, is cross-listed with Environmental Studies; Science, Society, and Technology; English; and Comparative Literature. In fall 2013, she has joined the academic division of the campus Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee.
For German majors she regularly directs senior thesis projects and has taught seminars on German Orientalisms, Present Pasts, and "Censored!." She also directs the undergraduate German majors' thesis writing seminar.