Kai Tan: Encountering Psychogeographical Literary Moments


Encountering Psychogeographical Literary Moments: Readers' Affective Enactment in Contemporary British Novels (2000-)

Applying approaches from diverse disciplines, “Encountering Psychogeographical Literary Moments: Readers’ Affective Enactment in Contemporary British Novels (2000-)” shows how embodied readers affectively enact fictional urban environments and affordances to make sense of the built environments in narratives. Kai Tan's dissertation defines psychogeographical literary moments (PLMs), which underline the environment-body-mind connection by foregrounding mundane and oft-overlooked situations in everyday city spaces. Advocating for practices of playful drifts and the deliberate recontextualization of signs, they encapsulate the anti-capitalist Situationist ethos and act as social instruments that challenge normalized beliefs and biased attitudes (Bond 2005, Coverley 2006, Debord 1955).

Drawing from Giovanna Colombetti’s affective enactivism, James Gibsonʼs affordances, and urban design principles related to embodiment, “Encountering Psychogeographical Literary Moments” presents a model of how readers encounter built environments and affordances in PLMs to reach positive/negative affective enactment (AffEn+/-) of narrative space. Using second-generation cognitive concepts by Marco Caracciolo, Karin Kukkonen and Merja Polvinen, it explains the changes in embodied readers’ plot predictions and their subsequent awareness of their real-life situatedness due to their enactment of narrative space and the accompanying affective responses.

Exemplary texts include Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island (2015), Will Wiles’s Care of Wooden Floors (2012) and Zadie Smith’s NW (2012), which utilize different urban settings to present salient themes of contemporary British fiction, such as the crossing of boundaries, the focus on peripheral spaces, and the giving of voice to new inhabitants. Beyond Kai Tan's intuitive readings that reflect the importance of space in narratives, a qualitative study with flesh-and-blood readers provides preliminary themes and codes of the reading experience and the post-reading effects. Finally, it presents a first draft of dimensions and items for a mixed-methods design to examine the effects of PLMs and narrative/real space on recipients by merging Tan's findings with existing measurement scales for spatial experience and presence.

The dissertation has been published open access on RWTH Publications and can be found here.