Bethany Wiggin

Professor of German

Founding Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities; Graduate Groups in Comparative Literature and English

606 Williams Hall
Thursday 1-2 or by appointment
CV (file):


Ph.D. University of Minnesota

My research and teaching span fields usually held apart: early modern German and Atlantic cultural history, on the one hand, and the environmental humanities, on the other. Presently, I am finishing a book, Utopia Found and Lost in Penn’s Woods, that’s been long in the making and exemplifies my research interests. It aims to bridge the disparate timescales between human and natural histories. Propelled by years of archival research in multilingual collections in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania and in German religious archives, the book reflects on our enduring coloniality today, and it considers the anticolonial histories and stories we need to confront the menace of the Anthropocene. I first began experimenting in methods and practices of connecting fields about a decade ago, when I first offered a class called Sustainability and Utopianism. With the help of its students and still other students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), it blossomed into the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. Subsequently, and with a series of generous grants and gifts, it has become a vibrant hub for community-engaged work and public environmental humanities, including three ongoing projects which I direct: The Ecotopian Toolkit for the Anthropocene, My Climate Story, and Intersecting Energy Cultures.

I began my academic career at Penn in 2003 and received tenure shortly before the birth of my second child, based on a body of work exploring the popularization of reading and the rise of the novel in Europe while also probing early modern transnational fears of the commodification of culture. My tenure home at Penn is in German, now part of the newly formed Department of French, Italian, and Germanic Studies. I also hold appointments to graduate groups in Comparative Literature and English as well as the Lauder Program for International Studies. At Penn, I have chaired the College taskforce on climate and ecoliteracy and served on strategic committees for energy, sustainability and the environment and for new directions in the humanities.

You can read a more fulsome statement about my work that I wrote in preparation for promotion to Professor at Penn in 2021. Visit my personal website at:


Research Interests

Environmental Humanities | Public Engagement | Climate Literacy & Climate Storytelling | Atlantic World and Colonialism | European Pre-Modern Literature and Culture in a Global Context | Utopianism | Ecotopianism Multilingualism & Translation


Faculty Bookshelf