Kai Tan


Research and Teaching Assistant at the Chair of English Literature and Cognitive Studies


Kai Tan is a teaching and research assistant at the RWTH Aachen University. She obtained her B.A. at the National University of Singapore, where she studied Philosophy and English Literature. As an undergraduate, she spent one year at the Albert Ludwig University Freiburg as an exchange student. After graduation, Kai Tan worked as a civil servant, primarily as a project and event manager, for over five years before returning to the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg in 2013 to embark on her Master’s degree. She received her M.A. in Literary Theory and English Literatures in 2016, and her thesis, “(T)Here is the City: Locating the Liminal London in Contemporary British Novels”, was awarded the Alumni Award by the Commission of the Philology Faculty of the Albert Ludwig University Freiburg.

During her time in Freiburg, Kai Tan was a research assistant at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). In addition, she assisted in the research for the DFG-funded project FA 2153/1‐1 “CCTV beyond Surveillance” led by Dr Nicole Falkenhayner of the English Department of the Albert Ludwig University Freiburg.

Kai Tan is currently based at the RWTH Aachen University, where she teaches English Literature and conducts research for her PhD project, “Reader Embodiment and Psychogeographical Literary Moments (PLMs) in Contemporary British Urban Narratives (2000-)”. The dissertation presents the embodied reader as a psychogeographical one who, through affective enactivism, situates him-/herself in the narrated space. As one would in real space, the psychogeographical reader interacts with affordances in the given narrated space and uses predictive processing to imagine possible actions and enact their agency in the PLM. Through such sense-making processes, the psychogeographical reader imagines possible worlds to the narrated world – other worlds that can alter and enhance the individual’s imagination of hidden possibilities that are embedded in the real world.

Apart from psychogeography and urban studies/sociology, her research interests include contemporary, modernist, and eighteenth-century British fiction, postcolonial studies, class inequalities and uneven development, cognitive approaches to Literature and culture, as well as empirical literary studies and the genre and effects of British comedies.


Academic Curriculum Vitae

since 04/2017
Research and Teaching Assistant in the Chair of Cognitive Literary Studies, RWTH Aachen

PhD Candidate

09/2015 – 03/2017
Research Assistant at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies

01/2015 – 03/2015
Research Assistant for the DFG-funded project FA 2153/1‐1 “CCTV beyond Surveillance”
by Dr Nicole Falkenhayner , Albert Ludwig University Freiburg

10/2013 – 09/2016
Master in English Literatures and Literary Studies, Albert Ludwig University Freiburg

10/2005 – 09/2006
Exchange programme (Philosophy and English Literature), Albert Ludwig University Freiburg

08/2003 – 07/2007
Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy and English Literature), National University of Singapore


Papers Presented

03/2019 “Immersion and Narrated Environments: Creating Heterotopia through Slow Reading.“ Nordic Summer University Circle 7 Artistic Research | Performing Heterotopia Winter Symposium 2019 Departures, Deviations and Elsewheres, European Humanities University, Vilnius, 7-10 March 2019.

02/2019 “Unearthing Simultaneity in Urban Narratives: Iain Sinclair’s Dining on Stones or, the Middle Ground (2004) and China Miéville’s The City & The City (2009)” Association of Literary Urban Studies (ALUS) Symposium - Simultaneity in the City, University of Duisburg-Essen, 15 February 2019.

04/2018 Narrative Space in Urban Studies and Psychogeographical Writings: A Proposed Study of (Embodied) Metaphors as Triggers of Recipient Emotions. 2018 International Conference in Narrative, McGill University, 19-22 April 2018.

03/2018 Reader Situatedness and Embodied Spatial Experiences: Literary Psychogeographical Moments in Will Wiles’s The Care of Wooden Floors. You Are Here: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Place, Space, and Embodiment, Creighton University, 23-24 March 2018.

08/2017 Walking/Reading. Experiencing Urban Spaces through Metaphors in Twenty-First-Century British Psychogeographical Novels. Summer Course in Narrative Study (SINS), Aarhus University, 30 July-04 August 2017.

Workshops/Training Schools

09/2020 “‘Connecting the Dots’: Conceptualising ‘Trace’ in the Nexus of Novels and Readers’ Sensory Imaginings. International Online Workshop.” Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, 24-25 September 2020.

08/2018 IGEL Training School in Empirical Methods in Literary Scholarship, RWTH University of Aachen, 27-30 August 2018.

06/2018 “Cognitive Literary Studies and the Test of Time: Narrative, Speed, Experience. A Second-Generation Workshop.” Het Pand, Ghent University, Ghent, 11 June 2018.


Alumni Award – Commission of the Philology Faculty, Albert Ludwig University Freiburg
For the MA thesis,
(T)Here is the City: Locating the Liminal London in Contemporary British Novels" "

DUO-Singapore Exchange Fellowship Award from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore
For the exchange programme (Philosophy and English Literature) at the Albert Ludwig University Freiburg




  • Eckenhoff, Judith and Kai Tan. "Space." Introduction to Cognitive Narratology, edited by Jan Alber and Peter Wenzel. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2021, pp. 65-94.
  • Tan, Kai. "Psychogeographical Drifting and the Embodied Sense-Making of History in Hidden Urban Sites: Will Wilesʼs Care of Wooden Floors (2012)." ZELTForum – Göttinger Schriften zur Landschaftsinterpretation und Tourismus, edited by Diana Marquardt, Jennifer Fest, Werner Kreisel, and Tobias Reeh, 2023, pp. 219-249.

  • Tan, Kai. “Shaping Your Own ‘Satin Island’ and Urban Identity in the Great Report of Tom McCarthy's Satin Island (2015)” Cities Under Stress - Edited Collection, edited by Anni Lappela, Liam Lanigan and Eric Prieto,Palgrave Macmillian, forthcoming. 

  • Tan, Kai. “Immersive Transmedia Storytelling and Embodied Urban Experiences of Psychogeographical Works” Ekphrasis – Images, Cinema, Theory , Media, edited by Fátima Chinita and Jorge Palinhos, forthcoming.