Dramaturgical Analogy

Dramaturgical Analogy

Dramaturgical analogy The term dramatugical analogy, originates from the ideas of symbolic interactionism. Which is a theory which puts emphasis on micro-scale social interaction, it expresses the main elements of interaction, it could be described a a two sided view of how humans interact. The use of the word dramaturgical analogy was expressed by Ervin Goffman who began to explore social situations, throughout his writings he refers back to an analogy of the theatre, as well as other comparisons to a everyday settings such as hospitals and restaurants ‘American medical organisations’ (Goffman,1990:p. 8) to support his ideas and introductions of his new terminology. The main idea in Goffman’s writings is how a person learns to ‘perform’, (interact) which he believes doesn’t represent a persons true self, but is designed to give the impression to those on the receiving end of the communications that it is. Whether it be a group of people in a verbal conversation or two people communicating through body language. Goffman expressed this by writing, ‘when an individual plays a part he implicitly requests this observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them’. Goffman, 1990:p. 28). He goes on to describe how we have a ‘mask’ on which we wear, in order to project our ‘self’ that we have socially constructed for people to perceive as us. These actions what people experience from us is what they perceive to be your characteristics, but these characteristics cannot be understood, without the social setting in which you perform. This demonstrates that our actions as humans are dependant on time, our surroundings and the type of audience we have.

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For example the way we engage yourself at a football match, of an evening is complete contrast to the way you act in a museum. Demonstrating that we ‘perform’ different roles depending upon where we are, who is present, and what sort of persona we want to give to people present. This can also be linked to Sigmund Freud who would explain this knowledge of how to act comes from the balance of the Id and the superego by the ego. As the superego has retained the rules of society, through development from a child as to what’s acceptable and what isn’t, within different settings.

Through his writing Goffman refers to there being a front and back stage to a persons performance, the front being an area where the performers social role, the audiences expectations and behaviour are brought together. Referring to this as ‘expression management’,’ a place where functions in a general and fixed fashion define the situation for those who observe the performance’ (Goffman, 1990:p. 32) so therefore the whole presentation is standardised.

Goffman illustrates this through the use of a comparison to a restaurant, where front stage would be where customers are expecting a standard polite, sophisticated service from a waiter. Where as backstage is where opinions and facts that were repressed in the front stage can be relieved, performers can step out of their role from the front stage and not ruin the allusion they have set front stage. Here Goffman refers to the separation between a waiter on the restaurant floor and the contrast between his actions here and when he enters the kitchen. Goffman,1990) Or possibly to the actions we carry out in our homes ‘behind closed doors’ that we wouldn’t engage in or generally share with other people in a public environment. A person that did display odd notions in public could be described as not meeting felicities conditions(Manning,1992). We as a society would then question their sanity, when they did engage in inappropriate social interaction, and if they were fit to carry on living in society. This is where a direct link to Phillip Manning’s analysis of modern society appears.

Studying the dramaturgical analogy, reasons for social order and manners are given by Goffman. But he doesn’t give substantial reasoning for his ideas, which is a very different manner to how Durkheim addresses the same situations. He examines the externalities, of how people adapt in various ways when threatened with the loss of face, (Goffman, 1967)(the loss of the role they are performing) but he doesn’t give contextual reasons for peoples motivations of why we do these things. He express his ideas more as rules and procedures that society has set.

Therefore some say that the dramaturgical anology has an over emphasis on the manipulation of society and ourselves. Almost as if we are artifices on which we constantly use personally and upon people around us. It can also be said that in his descriptions of the dramaturgical model, he enjoys talking about the misrepresentations in performances, explaining that he believes humans have the capacity to mislead others (Goffman,1990) this is what could of lead to him becoming unpopular with other sociologists, because he focuses on the negative in society but doesn’t make any attempt to suggest solutions to the problems he proposes.

However Phillip Manning supports him by explaining that Goffman is different to traditional anthropologists in that he gives us depth and understanding of how our own society is, rather than expanding out our knowledge of other societies (Manning,1992). In conclusion, the dramaturgical model, appears to be relevant to how we all individually act around others in our everyday lives. Although there are some down falls in Goffmans theory, most find it understandable because of the use of the analogy of a theatre.

Even though it has been noted that he does contradict his comparisons, of the theatre in his later writings. Therefore his writing may not have been meant to be interpreted too literally, but simply a way of examining society and its constant changes. As throughout he illustrates choices of an individual and how they project an image that they want to be perceived as, but not necessary are, as well as questioning if these performances are always conscious.

This is what could be explained as the true intentions of Goffman and the thoughts that gave rise to the dramaturgical analogy. | | | | | |

Bibliography Goffman Erving. (1959), The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, reprint Penguin Books, 1990. Goffman, Erving. (1967), Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior, Garden City, New York, Anchor Books. Manning, Phillip. (1992), Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology, UK: Polity Press | |


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