Research focus

Research at the School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies is focused on four main areas: English literature, film, critical media studies and theatre.

English literature

Victoria University of Wellington was ranked first in New Zealand for English language and literature in the latest PBRF round of research rankings. Victoria University of Wellington ranked in the top 100 for English Language and Literature in the 2019 QS World University Rankings by subject.

Research in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington ranges from the study of colonial indigenous writing to representations of Tokyo in contemporary English language fiction; from women poets of the English civil war to New Zealand identity in Young Adult fiction; from Spenser’s Faerie Queene to the ethical implications of the novels of J M Coetzee.

In recent years staff members have organised conferences and edited special issues of scholarly journals on Katherine Mansfield, early modern women writers, James K. Baxter and Robert Burns, and the ‘new’ New Zealand.

We value the diversity and richness of research in the Programme across the discipline. View a list of research groups, academic journals and archives relevant to the English Literature Programme.


The study of film is a rich and continuously evolving field that encompasses both the broad history of cinema in its artistic and industrial manifestations as well as its intersections with other media forms. Through entertainment, educational and experimental contexts, we use film to inform ourselves about our place within the world as well as our relationships with it.

Film has gone through significant transitions in recent decades. From what was mainly an analogue combination of moving images and sound, we have entered into an era in which digital forms are more common and transmedia links have intensified. Our research pays attention to these changes whilst concurrently maintaining a longer view of continuities with the past.

Informed by a wide variety of theoretical frameworks and methodologies, we take into account film texts, contexts, producers, industries, policy, events, audiences and technologies. At Victoria University of Wellington we are also able to incorporate practice-based research and working relationships with industry partners as part of our approach to understanding film.

This research informs our approach to teaching and learning. It also facilitates our participation in film related cultural activities such as film societies and film festivals. We communicate our research to the wider academic community, both in New Zealand and overseas. It is also available to government agencies, public sector organisations (NGOs), industry bodies, and other civic groups.

Critical media studies

Media have evolved over time into both an institution within society and very often a critical element of other institutions. We increasingly rely on media to inform us about society and our place in it. Our interactions with others are also increasingly mediated, leading to new practices and social formations. At the same time, our education, experiences, culture and beliefs all influence our interactions with media.

A critical media studies approach attempts to understand and intervene in these processes. The notion of criticism here implies a willingness to interrogate existing media forms, practices and policies – in essence, ‘defamiliarising’ the familiar in order to further our understanding of media.

Research from a critical media studies perspective is often historical and/or empirical in nature, but it is also informed by a wide variety of theoretical frameworks and methodologies. Media technologies, texts, contexts, producers, industries, regulators, regulations, events and audiences are all potential objects or sites of research.

The results of this research are made available to students and the wider academic community, as well as government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), industries and other civic groups, as the ultimate goal of critical media research is to inform others for the betterment – as well as a better understanding of – society.


At the University's Theatre Programme, history, theory and practice inform each other. We encourage a diversity of research approaches, methodologies and outputs, valorising research of theatre but also research through theatre. Our research is closely aligned with our teaching, and engages students at all levels in making and researching theatre. We develop graduates whose creative practice is informed by global trends and traditions, and whose scholarship and criticism is informed by an awareness of theatre practice.

In addition to their scholarly research expertise, Theatre Programme staff are creatively active as performers, directors, scenographers, playwrights, dramaturgs, and theatre critics. Areas of specialisation within the programme include performing and directing methodologies, intercultural theatre, translation and adaptation, ecological theatre practice, the theatre of New Zealand/Aotearoa, and indigenous performance practices.

The Programme has strong links with important industry organisations both within New Zealand and internationally, and promotes academic and creative exchange with other tertiary institutions. The Theatre Programme at Victoria University of Wellington has been ranked first in the country in both of the recent Performance Based Research Funding research rankings.