Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2023

Document Type

M.A. Essay

First Advisor

Klaus Mladek

Second Advisor

Miya Qiong Xie

Third Advisor

Micheal McGillen


By comparative reading of three pairs of performative moments in The Trial by Franz Kafka and Thought Report by Can Xue, this essay demonstrates the homological structure of totalitarianism, the idea of self, and truth as confinement from the perspective of tightness. The essay argues, the tightness in totalitarianism is constructed through the cooperation of individual and collective performance. First, It applies Hannah Arendt’s observation of elements in totalitarianism to analyze how the tightness in totalitarian bureaucracy is constructed by performance. Second, departing from Levinas’s 1935 essay “On Escape,” the essay investigates why escape is an essential need for human-beings and why creation as an alternative performance cannot be a possible way for escaping in considering totalitarianism as a metaphorical issue. Last, it brings Stanley Cavell’s concept of acknowledgement in ordinariness to provide a solution to the totalitarian confinement in tightness, although acknowledgement is also a performative burden that should be taken by human-beings. This essay thus proposes ordinariness as the key issue in the discussion of politics and ethics has been long ignored and it can turn performance into a positive and generative gesture.

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