PhD graduates

Read about our PhD graduates and the projects they undertook with us.


The International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) launched New Zealand's first PhD creative writing programme in 2008. Our first PhD graduate, Marian Evans, was capped in May 2010.

Graduate profiles are presented alphabetically here for historical interest and to give a sense of the diversity of projects undertaken by members of our PhD Creative Writing cohort. We imagine they will also be of interest to those considering applying for the programme in the future.

The descriptions below reflect the students' thinking either during their candidature or shortly after their PhD was awarded. As such, they should not be read as a final or definitive account of the project undertaken. We hope the web links included will provide more up to date information about each of them.

Information about our current PhD candidates and their projects can be found on our PhD Profiles page.You can also read about some of our MA graduates on our MA Graduate Showcase page

Pip Adam

Pip explored our relationships with architecture and engineering. Her creative project was the book-length work of fiction I’m Working on a Building.

Maxine Alterio

Maxine is a novelist, short story writer and an academic mentor in reflective storytelling. Her research focused on the memoirs of First World War nurses.

Angela Andrews

Angela explored the intersection of poetry and medicine within the medical humanities: how the being, knowing and doing in poetry relates to medical practice.

Michalia Arathimos

Michalia writes literary fiction. Her research interests were indigeneity, postcolonialism, hybridity, Māori, migrants and nationhood.

Valerie Arvidson

Valerie explored fiction incorporated with visual material. She wrote a hybrid novel and analysed picture-embedded work by Teju Cole and Carole Maso.

Claire Baylis

Claire’s novel and critical thesis explored the experience and perspectives of jurors in our criminal justice system, with a focus on sexual violence cases.

Airini Beautrais

Airini became interested in the book-length poetic sequence after writing a long poem about the anarchist Neil Roberts.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey

Nikki-Lee Birdsey is a poet who researched the intersections of memoir, place, exile and hybrid genres in the work of W.G. Sebald and others.

David Coventry

David wrote a hybrid novel exploring the impossibilities and improbabilities of living with ME/CFS.

Peter Cox

Peter is writing a six-part tv drama series, while examining the relationship between television ‘writers rooms’ and individual authorship.

Zach Dodson

Zach's thesis explored the writing, design and function of a hybrid illluminated novel.

Allan Drew

Allan wrote a novel of John Milton’s life while completing Paradise Lost. His critical thesis investigated the effects of genre on characterisation.

Kate Duignan

Kate's PhD was a novel narrated in first person, and a study of narration and ethics in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead novels, particularly Gilead itself.

Ben Egerton

Ben is interested in how contemporary poets explore faith. His thesis comprised a collection of new poetry and a study of Michael Symmons Roberts’s Drysalter.

Marian Evans

Scriptwriter Marian Evans’ autoethnographic PhD on writer/director gender in feature film development in New Zealand contributed to a global, activist project.

Laurence Fearnley

My critical PhD focused on the first attempts to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook. My creative project was a novel The Hut Builder, which also centred on the mountain.

Gigi Fenster

Gigi’s work explored self-induced fever and the creative mind. She integrated literary analysis, history, legal theory and memoir into a novel form.

David Fleming

David’s PhD thesis combined an examination of religious experience in contemporary fiction, and a novel.

Miles Fuller

Miles investigated how human beings exceed the limitations of the body to reach a state of chronic pain, and the limits of language in describing that pain.

Roxane Gajadhar

Roxane wrote a television series and accompanying virtual reality experience. Her critical work explored adaptation across platforms.

Helen Heath

Helen explored how science poetry can reflect social upheaval, and contribute to epistemic cognition and scientific paradigm shifts.

Kerry Hines

Kerry used her concept of ‘co-mediality’ to underpin the development of a text-and-image work incorporating original poems and 19th-century photographs.

Helen Innes

Helen's creations are set in the bush & include the weird & wonderful world of 'warblish' - birdsong vocalisations often found in folklore and birding guides.

Lynn Jenner

This hybrid mixed-genre thesis recorded Lynn's investigations of loss, searches and re-constructions. The Holocaust was a major focus.

Justine Jungersen-Smith

Justine's hybrid form doctoral work drew on interview material to examine how imagining the future felt from Aotearoa New Zealand 2017-2020.

Christine Leunens

Christine is a novelist of literary fiction and historical fiction. She researched the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship in literature in English.

Therese Lloyd

Therese’s PhD thesis was a collection of poetry about desire, absence, and the healing nature of time, connected to an investigation of Anne Carson’s ekphrasis.

Monica Macansantos

Monica wrote a novel about the nature of complicity in Marcos-era Philippines, and a critical study of the Martial Law Novel.

Tina Makereti

My project explored how stories are central to the reclamation and revitalisation of identities that have been decimated by colonisation.

Gavin McGibbon

My PhD examined script adaptations from stage to cinema and vice versa. It contained my own adaptations in both directions and proposed principles for adaptors.

Hannah McKenzie Doornebosch

Hannah researched representations of women and mothers onstage in New Zealand, and wrote several plays exploring how this representation has changed over time.

Alison McLachlan

Alison examined the relationship between chaos theory and narrative complexity in television dramas, to inform the story and structure of her own TV series.

Michael McLane

Michael investigated the WWII 'American Invasion' of NZ by US Marines and Army forces with a focus on skirmishes between US and NZ troops in Wellington.

Stephanie de Montalk

Stephanie’s dissertation blended a personal memoir of intractable pain with a study of pain's resistance to verbal expression.

Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela wrote a novel set in Vanuatu. Her critical thesis explored women's empowerment and creativity in Vanuatu and their public voices.

Sue Orr

Sue’s project combined a novel, The Party Line, and a critical analysis of the manipulation of the eavesdropping act and motif in Maurice Gee's adult fiction.

Lawrence Patchett

Lawrence considered the impact of ideas about authenticity on form in biographical fiction. An outcome was the book of short-stories I Got His Blood on Me.

Anna Sanderson

Anna’s PhD was a single work of creative non-fiction, which aimed to represent ‘the economy’ through the framework and language of visual and literary art.

Sarah Taggart

Sarah wrote a madness novel and proposed a 'mad' reading of two iconic Janet Frame works.

Lena Tichy

Lena wrote a historical novel about U.S. intelligence in Switzerland in 1945. Her critical thesis examined the queering of masculinity in fiction.

Steven Toussaint

My thesis considered how the many compositional strategies that constitute the musician's art can be put, by way of analogy, to the service of writing poetry.

Holly Walker

Holly wrote a collection of essays that explored the ripple effects of trauma on family, identity, and motherhood.

Amy Leigh Wicks

While my poems explored identity and place, my critical thesis focused on J.K. Baxter and how to write with authenticity as a poet.