PhD project profiles

Read about the International Institute of Modern Letters’ current PhD candidates and their projects.


The International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) launched New Zealand's first PhD creative writing programme in 2008.

The writers who have joined the programme are working on a wide range of topics, and their supervisors come from an equally wide range of academic departments. While primary supervisors are usually staff from the IIML, co/secondary supervisors have come from Schools as diverse as Architecture, Art History, Gender and Women's Studies, Linguistics and Applied Languages, Te Kawa a Māui / Māori Studies, Nursing, Midwifery and Health, the English and Theatre programmes of SEFTMS, and Va'aomanu Pasifika / Pacific Studies.

Regular group meetings provide a forum for PhD students (and their supervisors) to discuss their work in progress and take turns to present aspects of it in an informal and supportive atmosphere.

The descriptions below reflect the students' thinking at the time they contributed. However, we attempt to update these from time to time, to reflect the progress of each project.

You can read about previous students' projects on our PhD graduates page. You can also read about some of our MA graduates on our MA graduate showcase page.

Abby Letteri

'We overlay our human stories onto the creatures we interact with, a tendency which is both primary and profound.'

Caoimhe McKeogh

Caoimhe is investigating play and playfulness in fiction; how imaginative play by characters can help introduce readers to playful narrative techniques.

Jennifer Tomscha

Jennifer is writing a novel examining the effects of government and corporate surveillance technologies on interpersonal relationships.

Sarah Young

Sarah is investigating the poethics of the witness and the narration of traumatic affect.

Dylan Horrocks

Dylan's thesis explores the narrative innovations of role-playing games and improvised serialisation through a mixture of comics, essays, and game design.

Johanna Knox

Johanna will explore contemporary practice-based expressions of Māoritanga, focusing on dynamics of connection, disconnection, reconnection and hybridity.

Sarah Taggart

Sarah is writing a madness novel and proposing a 'mad' reading of three iconic Janet Frame works.

Zach Dodson

Zach hopes to produce a work that combines traditional print design and writing with new approaches in interactive fiction and visual narrative.

Michael McLane

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

David Coventry

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

Roxane Gajadhar

Roxane is writing a television series and accompanying virtual reality experience. Her critical work explores adaptation across platforms.

Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe)

Anahera is writing hybrid critical/creative essays that interrogate rhetorical sovereignty at the intersection between colonisation and Māori literature.

Holly Walker

Holly is writing a collection of essays that will explore the ripple effects of trauma on family, identity, and motherhood.

Miles Fuller

Miles is investigating 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.

Maraea Rakuraku

Maraea will write three new plays, while examining representations of wahine Māori in theatre, and of tikanga Māori that whakamanawahine in theatre.

Helen Innes

Helen's novel is set in the local bush & includes the weird & wonderful world of warblish - birdsong vocalisations or mnemonics in folklore and birding guides.

Peter Cox

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