In her research, Petra combines literary studies, “German” media theory, and philological analysis to reconstruct material histories of intellectual and cultural production, especially in late 18th- and 19th-century Germany. Her other research interests include print culture, historical forms of knowledge organization, intellectual tools, and the history of journalism.
- Monograph: The Fontane Workshop: Manufacturing Realism in the Industrial Age of Print. New Directions in German Studies. London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2019.
The first in-depth study of the unpublished notebooks and other paper tools of the great German author Theodor Fontane, the book shows that Fontane pieced his realist novels together from a vast repertoire of textual building blocks that he culled from mass media and then “remixed” to create complex aesthetic effects. The study opens up new avenues for thinking about the relationship between mechanical modes of text production, literary creativity, and the mass press in the second half of the nineteenth century.
- A second major research project, From Our Own (False) Correspondent: Forms of Everyday Fakery in the Press, ca. 1635 to 1870, analyzes the normalcy of fake news in the German, British and American press from the invention of newspapers to the formation of modern news agency cartels. Written from the perspective of newsmakers and practitioners, it sheds new light on the prehistory of contemporary phenomena of fakery.
- Editorial work: Petra is an Associated Member of the Theodor Fontane-Arbeitsstelle at Göttingen University, led by Gabriele Radecke, to co-edit the Fontane volume Aus England for the Große Brandenburger Ausgabe (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag).