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Dramaturgical Analysis -- Research Starters Sociology

By: Newton, Heather;

2009 / EBSCO


This article will provide an overview of dramaturgical analysis. The article outlines the theory of Erving Goffman's analysis of social interaction in "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." A summary of the conceptual concepts of Goffman's work and a practical expression of these concepts within the dynamics of social interaction is also provided. This article also explores the significance of Goffman's ideas and writings. An explanation of the impact of Goffman's theories on the fields of sociology and psychology is included as well as a synopsis of subsequent research that confirmed many of Goffman's ideas and empirical critiques that questioned some of his conclusions. Specifically, this article explores some of the main criticisms that researchers have levied against Goffman's theories. These criticisms include the observation that Goffman's ideas do not account for the encounters an individual may have with subsets of their main audience wherein the individual assumes a partial "face" of the character or role normally played. This idea of fractional identities is a reality in daily life but is not covered in Goffman's writing. This article also summarizes the criticism that most individuals have a fluid concept of self that is constantly changing or is necessarily distinct from their authentic self because certain identities are assumed solely for a specific purpose or finite period of time. Lastly, this article explores the moral critique of Goffman's writings, which points out that not striving to live up to an authentic self is a morally inferior approach to life. Finally, this article discusses some of the applications of dramaturgical analysis. For instance, modern consumerism and simulated reality are both influenced by Goffman's theories.