In her research, Petra combines literary studies, “German” media theory, and philological analysis to reconstruct material histories of intellectual and cultural production, especially in 18th- and 19th-century Germany. Her other research interests include print culture, historical forms of knowledge organization, intellectual tools, the history of journalism, and fake eyewitnessing.
- Monograph: The Fontane Workshop: Manufacturing Realism in the Industrial Age of Print. New Directions in German Studies; 26. London: Bloomsbury Academic, in press, scheduled for July 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The first in-depth study of the unpublished notebooks and other paper tools of the great German author Theodor Fontane, the book shows that Fontane pieced his realist novels together from a vast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, All the News That’s Fit to Twist: Stories of Everyday Fakery in the Press, ca. 1632–1914, analyzes liminal cases of fakery 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 fake news.
- 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).