LIFE AS THEATER A DRAMATURGICAL SOURCEBOOK PDF

The way in which Goffman explains how people present themselves in society is with the metaphor of a theatrical performance. The world is turned into a living stage where everyone is an actor, tuning their performances in accordance of social constraints. A key concept he used to explain this is Dramaturgy. A dramaturgist constructs the story and then plays the part using structure, metaphors and symbolic gestures to portray the story and the character they represent to the audience.

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The way in which Goffman explains how people present themselves in society is with the metaphor of a theatrical performance. The world is turned into a living stage where everyone is an actor, tuning their performances in accordance of social constraints. A key concept he used to explain this is Dramaturgy. A dramaturgist constructs the story and then plays the part using structure, metaphors and symbolic gestures to portray the story and the character they represent to the audience.

The backstage being the place where we choose our props, think how we want to be perceived by others and plan our performance accordingly. Of course, the frontstage is where we carry out our performance, by using the metaphor of a stage he is referring to social interaction. We use these performances to give off impressions about ourselves and perhaps control what other people think of us. This also works the other way around, we judge a person by the way they carry their performance in the chosen situation and the props they used.

Others are our audience, and vice versa, we modify our performance in accordance to our audience which is respectively another performer. This rings true with the theory of Dramaturgy, we represent ourselves in a chosen way by modifying everything to do with our performance, mostly premeditated but sometimes spontaneously. This is very prominent in teenagers. They are often unaware of the kind of person they want to be but as well as this they strive to fit in and be accepted, they are constantly modifying their performance by being an audience to others that they admire.

The way in which we can modify our performance is distancing ourselves from our expected character or role. The notion that people all have a role or roles within society and can distance our self from the conventions that are implied with the role.

This applies very strongly to teenagers, their role is a student in education who is under the authority of adults and all their behaviour is institutionalised within their chosen place of study. Goffman created a model that portrays this theory very simply but effectively. He observes how the riders take on and perform the role and how age affects their performance and how much they distance the role from themselves.

He noticed that adults would make a mockery of the role in front of their friends to suggest to others that are above these childish practices. These performances of course rely on the fact that everyone else is playing the game.

People perform in accordance to the fact that everyone else is performing as well, this is what we base our rules of performance on, as well as social contexts which are intrinsically created by peoples values and ideologies. If a person were to break the rules of performance or actually not perform at all on stage then the construction of society and reality would be broken.

Georg Simmel, a German sociologist also had a perspective on this. He uses the example of a party of how social contexts force people to all play by the same rules in certain situations, if any one person breaks these rules then society breaks down.

He claims that at a party people leave behind serious identities that they usually perform in light of and engage in a constructed context with playful, idle chit chat without a hidden motive.

We are confined to giving answers that would please our audiences and none of our individuality is shown through our performance. This suggests we are fully in control of the parts of society that we interact in, if we can control the social context then in turn we control how everyone else modifies their behaviour within society.

The whole theme behind his theories is the notion of self but when looking at this perspective Goffman was only thinking about himself. We are modifying our behaviour to an extent that none of our actual identity is apparent, it is all just a constructed identity, the person we want other to see us as.

We spend so long backstage perfecting our performance and trying our best to give off a certain impression to others that our actual self is overshadowed by our constructed self, thus eliminating any sense of self. The notion of Dramaturgy being used in our presentation of self is very interesting and valid, but to certain extents. We do modify our behaviour behind closed doors so that we can give off certain impressions but not to the extent that all sense of individuality is discarded.

References Burns, T. Erving Goffman. London: Routledge. Brisset, D. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Mead: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press. Goffman, E. Loser and B. Rosenberg ed. Sociological theory: a book of readings. London: Collier, 5pp.

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Table of Contents for: Life as theater : a dramaturgical source

A volume that has deservedly attained the status of a landmark work, this was the first book to explore systematically the material and subject matter of social psychology from the dramaturgical viewpoint. It has been widely used and quoted, and has sparked ferment and debate in fields as diverse as sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, speech communication, and formal theater studies. This classic text was revised and updated for a second edition in , and includes approximately 66 percent new materials, all featuring individual introductions that provide the dramaturgical perspective and reflect the most learned thinking and work being done within this point of view. Like its predecessor, it is designed to serve as a primary text or supplementary reader in classes. This new paperback edition includes an introduction by Robert A. Stebbins that explains why, even fifteen years after its publication, Life as Theater remains the best single sourcebook on the dramaturgic perspective as applied in the social sciences.

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Dramaturgy (sociology)

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