Bethany Wiggin

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Ph.D. University of Minnesota
Associate Professor of German
Director Penn Program in Environmental Humanities
Areas of Interest: 
Intersections between the early modern period and contemporary theoretical concerns including globalism, translation and multilingualism, and gender
Contact Information
Office Address: 
735 Williams Hall
Email Address:
Office Hours: 
on leave Spring 2015

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. A member of the core faculty in German, she is also affiliated with the English department.

While on research leave in 2014-2015, she is on campus to direct the new Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities. While on sabbatical, she will give the following talks:

  • "Sustainability is Not an English Word," Women in German Conference, October 2014
  • "Calicos, Imperial Trade, and the Anthropocene," Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, November 2014
  • “Utopian Histories for the Anthropocene,” University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, November 2014
  • "Everywhere a Guest? Environmental Humanities in the Arts and Sciences Curriculum," University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, November 2014
  • "Utopia Lost and Found in Penn's Woods," University of Tennessee, Knoxville, December 2014
  • "Cultural Transfer and the Novelle in the Age of Incunabula: Anton von Pforr's Buch der Beyspile," Renaissance Society of America, Berlin, Germany, March 2015
  • "Pre-Modern World and National Literatures at 1700: The German Case," Princeton University, April 2015
  • "Poor Christoph's Almanac: Popular Education in Colonial German Almanacs," University of Muenster, June 2015

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 2015)—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 four 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 and is slated to appear in 2015.
  • The second, Babel of the Atlantic, departs from a conference investigating how authority was negotiated between the "Old" and "New" worlds and organized by Wiggin, 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.It is under an advanced contract with Penn State University Press.
  • The third is a special issue of The Germanic Review on The Return of World Literature to Goethe which Wiggin will guest edit, 2 / 2015.
  • The fourth 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.


Articles slated to appear later in 2014 include: “Slavery in Translation: German Baroque Figurations of African Enslavement in the Americas” in Opening Spaces: Constructions, Visions, and Depictions of Spaces and Boundaries in the Baroque, ed. Karin Friedrich (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 2014) and “Sister Marcella, Marie Christine Sauer (d.1752), and the Chronicle of the Sisters at Ephrata" in Mysticism, Reform, and the Formation of Modernity, ed. by Sarah Poor and Nigel Smith (South Bend, Indiana: Notre Dame UP, 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 teaches Sustainability and Utopianism, a seminar that considers 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 is cross-listed with Environmental Studies; Science, Society, and Technology; English; and Comparative Literature. In fall 2013, she joined Penn's Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee on Academics and SAS's strategic planning committee on Energy, the Environment, and Sustainability. In conjunction with the Penn Humanities Forum topic, "Color," and with topic director Chi-ming Yang, Wiggin is organizing a green symposium, "Hope, Public Art, and Community,” for February 2015.

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.

Curriculum Vitæ: