Petra S. McGillen

Assistant Professor of German Studies

"You're right; our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts," Friedrich Nietzsche said to his secretary in 1882. Nietzsche's statement captures exactly what lies at the core of my research: I work on the material history of creativity and knowledge production in German literature and culture, ca. 1750 to 1900. In particular, I explore the impact of different forms and media of notation—from doodles to writers’ notebooks, from lists to databases—on creative writing processes and forms of generating knowledge. My other research and teaching interests include media and book history in 18th and 19th-century Germany, print and material culture, textual practices, authorship, intellectual technologies, the history of modern journalism, and the emergence of fake news.

Personal Website Twitter
(603) 646 2218
329 Dartmouth Hall
HB 6084
German Studies
Ph.D. Princeton University, 2012
M.A. Princeton University, 2009
M.A. University of Sussex, England, 2006
B.A. Universität Potsdam and Fachhochschule Potsdam, Germany, 2005

Selected Publications

“Ein kreativer Apparat. Die Mediengeschichte von Theodor Fontanes Bibliotheksnetz und Lektürepraktiken.” Fontane Blätter 103 (2017): 100–123. [Invited Translation of “A Creative Machine,” see below.]

“The Romantic Editor as Modern Media Practitioner: The Poetics of Reading in Ludwig Tieck’s Minnelieder Anthology.” German Life and Letters, Special Issue: Das Erblühen der Blumenlesen. German Anthologies, 1700–1850, eds. Nora Ramtke and Seán M. Williams, German Life and Letters 70.1 (2017): 57–78 (peer-reviewed). DOI 10.1111/glal.12139

“Wit, Bookishness, and the Epistemic Impact of Note-Taking: Lichtenberg’s Sudelbücher as Intellectual Tools,” Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 90.4 (2016): 501–528 (peer-reviewed). DOI 10.1007/s41245-016-0025-8

"Andauernder Effekt: Medienkonkurrenz und Rhetorik in Heinrich Heines Napoleon-Schriften." Zwischen Gattungsdisziplin und Gesamtkunstwerk. Intermedialität 1815 – 1848. Eds. Stefan Keppler-Tasaki, Wolf G. Schmidt. Berlin: de Gruyter 2015, 203-222 (peer-reviewed). DOI 10.1515/9783110404128.203

"Kompilieren.” Historisches Wörterbuch des Mediengebrauchs. Eds. Heiko Christians, Matthias Bickenbach, and Nikolaus Wegmann. Köln: Böhlau 2014, 352–368.

"A Creative Machine: The Media History of Theodor Fontane’s Library Network and Reading Practices." The Germanic Review 87.1 (2012): 72–90 (peer-reviewed). DOI 10.1080/00168890.2012.654440

Speaking Engagements

“Copy and Mix: Fontane’s Notes and the Manufacture of Realism in the Industrial Age of Print.” Invited Talk, The Novel and its Working Methods: A Workshop, Mahindra Humanities Center, co-sponsored by The Novel Theory Seminar, Harvard University, Cambridge, November 2017.

“Steady-Seller and Living Archive: Crossing the Book / Journal Distinction in Theodor Fontane’s Wanderungen,” The Business of Literature: Authorship, Publishing, Aesthetics. Multi-Panel Series, 40th Annual German Studies Association Conference, San Diego, September 2016.

Faculty Member of the Sixth Annual Princeton–Weimar Summer School for Media Studies, "Start Making Sense: The Question of Interpretation under The Condition of Technology's Ongoing Provocation," Princeton, New Jersey, Summer 2016.

“The Compiler’s Moment: Fontane and the Industrialization of Print.” Form and Format, ca. 1880–1940. Invited Talk, NCCR Iconic Criticism/Eikones, Basel, Switzerland, October 2015.

“Into the Reading Labyrinth: Poetics of Immersion in Tieck’s Minnelieder Anthology.” German-Language Anthologies in the Long 18th Century. Panel, 14th International Congress for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS), Rotterdam, Netherlands, July 2015.

Works in Progress

Book manuscript: The Compiler's Moment: Fontane’s Notebooks and the Manufacture of Literature in the Industrial Age of Print.

Edited book: Theodor Fontane – Aus England (Große Brandenburger Ausgabe, Berlin: Aufbau)

Book manuscript: Tools for Thought: Material Histories of Scholarly Inventiveness from Lichtenberg to Luhmann.

Selected Works and Activities

Live radio interview (25 minutes) for the “Dr. Matt Townsend Show” about the history of fake news and prevention strategies for today’s media landscape, aired on BYU Boston Public Radio on May 25, 2017.

“Fontane war ein Pionier der Fake News” [Fontane was a pioneer of fake news], interview about my research, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 20, 2017.

Op-Ed “Techniques of 19th-century fake news reporter teach us why we fall for it today,” The Conversation, April 5, 2017.