Borderlands: A Novel and Poetics


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis comprises a novel and poetics exploring how creative writing practice can
be influenced by engaging in psychogeographic studies of landscapes containing
nuclear power stations. The focus of this research is the Exclusion Zone surrounding
the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine and the landscape around Wylfa
Nuclear Power Station in North Wales.
The novel explores how embodied experience of landscapes containing
nuclear power production affects emotional and behavioural responses in the
characters. It is designed as a contiguous narrative between the two places, following
one sister’s journey to and through the Exclusion Zone, and the remaining sister’s reevaluation
of her response to nuclear power at home. This structure enables thematic
links and comparisons between the contaminated and heavily restricted landscape that
exists following the Chernobyl disaster, and the farming community around the still
functional Wylfa.
The poetics is an autoethnographic study examining how my own relationship
with nuclear landscapes informs my creative actions. In Part One I consider Guy
Debord’s definition of psychogeography alongside Eudora Welty’s essay on place in
fiction in relation to my writing processes. Examination of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s
theories of embodied perception, and the writing of Robert Macfarlane, identifies how
landscape is read physically and sensually, as well as visually, and how this informs
my methodology. Part Two provides a detailed investigation of my psychogeographic
practice within the landscapes of Wylfa and Chernobyl, with specific focus on those
aspects of the novel that were influenced by this practice. In applying Debord’s
critique of ‘the Spectacle’ to the Exclusion Zone I discuss how engaging in dérives –
drifts through multiple ambient spaces – facilitated the gathering of embodied
knowledge for the novel.
This thesis analyses the ways in which landscape forms identity as much as
identity informs perceptions of landscapes, and how this symbiosis shapes the
narrative and characters in Borderlands. It exemplifies how psychogeography can be
applied to rural irradiated spaces to form new understandings of emotional and
behavioural responses to nuclear power, and how this can inform creative actions.
Date of Award5 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorROGER GLASS (Director of Studies) & JAMES BYRNE (Supervisor)


  • creative writing
  • nuclear
  • Chernobyl
  • Wylfa
  • Autoethnography
  • Psychogeography
  • Novel
  • Debord
  • Wales
  • Poetics

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