Bethany Wiggin

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20032004 Forum on Belief

Bethany Wiggin

Assistant Professor, German

Fashionably Godless

The German seventeenth century witnessed a proliferation of publications inveighing against the spread of fashions. Figured as a virulent pestilence corrupting the German body, various fashions were consistently depicted in a metaphorical language indebted to Livy’s notions of Eastern luxury. Wiggin’s research examines the construction of fashion as external and essentially foreign to the native German body, seeking to uncover both the alleged origins of various fashions and the ways in which the materials of fashion were believed to transform the body. She has completed a study of fashionable novels in the late-seventeenth century and is currently at work on a study of coffee drinking, both intended as parts of a study tentatively entitled The Geography of Fashionability in Early Modern Germany. While at the Humanities Forum, Wiggin will investigate the ways in which the materials of fashion were thought not only to transform the body but were believed to transfigure the soul. Her work probes questions such as: Why did the materials of fashion impinge upon one’s faith in the divine? Why were so-called fashionable men and women consistently portrayed as godless? Were all fashions thought to be equally devilish? Which individuals were believed more capable of withstanding fashions’ exotic allures?