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 the School of English, Film, Theatre, Media and Communication, and Art History, 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.

Dan Keane

Dan is writing a series of nonfiction essays that explore the authority of the expat voice in online spaces.

Hannah Mettner

Hannah is examining the intersection of queerness and fabulism in short fiction.

Cassandra Tse

Cassandra is writing a portfolio of new works for Immersive theatre performance that aim to push narrative immersion to the forefront of the experience.

Marama Salsano

Set in a future Aotearoa, Marama's novel contemplates the effects of environmental and cultural climate change on isolated Māori communities.

Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall

Kōtuku is interested in developing a methodology to support Indigenous authors emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually while they work.

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.

Samantha Murphy

Samantha is writing a collection of science fiction stories, and a research component that focuses on the themes and stylistics of the works of James Tiptree Jr

Barbara Sumner

The Illegitimate Other: adoptology and the manufacture of identity. A study of the structures, functions, and purpose of human adoption in society.

Jennifer Tomscha

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

Jessica Wilson

Jess's hybrid memoir examines landscape, narrative, performance, and long walks, through the lens of her hike on Te Araroa, New Zealand’s 3000km long trail.

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.

Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe)

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

Maraea Rakuraku

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