Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Jill Durey

Second Advisor

Professor Andrew Taylor


This thesis locates the writings of Dorothy Hewett in a firm relationship with postmodern thought. The argument focuses on evidence that the dominant aesthetic of Hewett's writing is the feminine sublime which comprises a commitment to uncertainty. In this modality, reason does not foreclose on the action of the imagination in the sublime moment. The revised dynamic is explored with an emphasis on the radical nature of the doubt in question. It reflects a deliberate resistance to certainty, and fol1ows from Hewett's early experience with communism. At a formal level, in Hewett's texts, the commitment to uncertainty is not least apparent in layered operations of the sublime aesthetic within the writing. The feminine sublime also operates in the orientations of Hewett's subject construction, in which a complex sense of identity as processual and divided is clear. It is evident in thematic and political aspects of the writing which are inflected towards uncertainty in various ways and conform to this mode of the sublime. In this regard, the thesis illustrates, Hewett's engagements with the themes of death and the maternal and her admissions of the irrational are exemplary. Such inflections produce moments of ethical tension, contradictions, ambivalences and accommodations of incommensurability, some of which are examined here. Hewett's diverse and wide-ranging engagements with genre provide another instance of the commitment to uncertainty, and this governs the selection of texts addressed in the thesis. The emphasis is on Hewett's prose writings. Their aesthetic diversity is produced, in part, by literary precedents and multiple discourses, which feed into the writing as inclusiveness, both of thought and artistry. The thesis addresses some of these and argues that, combined, these factors position Hewett as a writer with a postmodern sensibility.