Presentation of self outline

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Topics: Sociology
Critical appreciation: Erving Goffman; The presentation of self in everyday life.

Erving Goffman was one of the most important Sociologists in the 20th century who focussed his study on aspects of social life. It is often argued that Goffman was “one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable practitioners of social science” (Smith, 2006:1). He was born on the 11th June 1922 in Alberta, Canada. His parents were Jewish and part of the group of Ukrainians who moved to Canada before the beginning of the First World War. Initially Goffman studied Chemistry before moving to the University of Toronto to study Anthropology and Sociology where he gained an understanding in Durkheim, Warner, Freud and Parsons. Goffman’s wife killed herself after battling with mental illness which provokes him to research into these areas and criticise many medical and scientific claims. Between 1959 and 1969 Goffman published seven significant one of those being the presentation of self in everyday life which will be assessed throughout this review.

In the discipline of Sociology Goffman was looked upon highly and today his work is widely cited. He referred to his work as dramaturgical analysis “Dramaturgical social psychology is the study of meaningful behaviour” (Brissett and Edgley, 1975) which was the study of social interaction on a micro scale looking at the meanings behind everyday events. Nowadays his work can be looked at as symbolic interactionism; the presentation of self in everyday life was and is regarded as one of his greatest contributions to the discipline. It looked at everyday behaviour grasping the elements of social interaction. This was a key contribution and sparked debates amongst sociology in years to come as he was the first to highlight social interaction as something to be studied within Sociology. It was a subject relatively untouched and in Goffman’s world everything is not quite what it seems. Goffman believed social life was based on theatrics



Bibliography: Brissett, D and Edgley, C. (1974) Life as a theatre, a dramaturgical sourcebook, Chicago. Durkheim, E. (1984) The division of labour in Society, Macmillan: New York. Goffman, E. (1963) The presentation of self in everyday life: Hardmonsworth, Penguin. Manning, P. (1992) Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology, UK: Polity Press Mead, A. (1973) Self, language and the world, Texas University Press. Smith, G. (2006) Erving Goffman, London: Routledge.

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