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.

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 'American Invasion' of NZ by US Marines and Army forces during WWII with a focus on skirmishes between US and NZ troops in Wellingt

David Coventry

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

Roxane Gajadhar

Roxane is writing a feature film alongside works for virtual and augmented reality. Her critical work explores narrativity within immersive platforms.

Anne Galloway

Anne’s doctoral work focusses on finding new ways to write about people’s relationships with farm animals, and our complex attitudes towards farmed animal life.

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’s memoir project and critical thesis will investigate the self in narrative nonfiction writing: who is the 'I' telling the story and can they be trusted?

Claire Baylis

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

Ben Egerton

Ben's thesis explores, through the poetry of Michael Symmons Roberts and a complementary collection of his own new poetry, the language of faith and experience.

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.

Justine Jungersen-Smith

Justine’s hybrid form doctoral work will draw on interview material to examine how imagining the future feels from Aotearoa New Zealand in 2017.

Maraea Rakuraku

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

Nikki-Lee Birdsey

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

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.

Mikaela Nyman

Mikaela is writing a novel set in Vanuatu. Her critical thesis explores women’s empowerment and creativity in Vanuatu and their public voices.

Peter Cox

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