Outline and Discuss Erving Goffman's Theory of Dramaturgy.

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  • Topic: Sociology, Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
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Question 4 Outline and discuss Erving Goffman’s concept of dramaturgy
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” This familiar exert from Shakespeare’s AsYou Like It, captures the essence of dramaturgy, a model of society which depicts social interactions as those of actors in a theatrical presentation before an audience in a given setting(Ferrante 2011).Goffman’s theory, which expanded on Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic approach, may be divided into six themes: the performance, the region, the team, discrepant roles, communication out of character, and impression management (Manning 1992).

Firstly, Goffman identifies seven elements of performance: belief in the role that is being played, the front or ‘mask’, dramatic realization, idealization, maintenance of expressive control, misrepresentation, and mystification. For instance, let us consider the example of a young man going for a job interview. As he seeks to assume the role of an ideal employee (idealization), he tries (in his performance) to convey a certain image about himself through his dress, his speech, and his expressions (his front), emphasizing those things that he wants the interviewers to know (dramatic realization). He has to maintain control over these expressions throughout the interview (maintenance of expressive control). Any lapse in his performance in that role (misrepresentation) may lead to him revealing those things that he has been trying to conceal (mystification).

Secondly, Goffman describes that there are different stages or ‘regions’ in society. In the same example of the young man going through the interview, the room where he is before the interviewers would be the ‘front stage’, where both actors and audience are present and where actors, engaged in their performance, take care to maintain their images and behavior (Ferrante 2011). When the...
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