In her research, Petra combines literary studies, media studies, and philological analysis to reconstruct the material history of creativity, especially in late 18th- and 19th-century Germany. Her other research interests include poetics, historical forms of knowledge production, intellectual tools, and the history of journalism.
- Book Manuscript (in progress): The Compiler’s Moment: Fontane and the Manufacture of Literature in the Industrial Age of Print.
The first in-depth study of the unpublished notebooks and other paper tools of the great German novelist Theodor Fontane, the book shows that peculiar compilatory working methods and note-taking techniques enabled Fontane to produce literature that was at once highbrow and had a broad popular appeal, providing the foundation for his freelance authorship in later 19th-century Germany.
- A second major research project, Tools for Thought: Material Histories of Scholarly Inventiveness from Lichtenberg to Luhmann, analyzes the “smart” writing media and storage devices that intellectuals from the German tradition used between ca. 1750 and the digital era to navigate central challenges of modern scholarship.
- Editorial work: Petra is an Associated Member of the Theodor Fontane-Arbeitsstelle at Göttingen University, led by Gabriele Radecke, to edit the Fontane volume Aus England for the Große Brandenburger Ausgabe (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag).