The dynamics of interpersonal interactions are rather complex and have multiple layers. Many scholars all around the world are focused on the exploration of human communication and its various characters and forms. The sociologist Erving Goffman proposed viewing one’s communication with the individual around as performance using a symbolic analogy of a theater (Barnhart N. d.). Goffman’s theory covers group dynamics, interactions within various environments, unconventional scenarios, and the influence of individual and environmental factors on communication (Barnhart N. d.).
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The proposed research will focus on Erving Goffman, and his vision of the self within the communication with the outer world; the theory will be demonstrated using the example of a teacher and their interactions with the class under various circumstances.
Erving Goffman was born at the beginning of the 1920s; even though he is originally Canadian, he studied and practiced in the United States (Teuber N. d.). As a sociologist, Goffman has contributed to the research of human interactions. One of his major works concerning this subject is the book called “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” published in 1959. The book introduces Goffman’s theory of interactions between one’s self and the other individuals based on the analogy with the theater. This theory is also known as a dramaturgical approach with the self in the role of a main performer or actor (Barnhart N. d.).
Goffman’s dramaturgical theory is based on the performances that require the presence of several main components – the actor (one’s self), the situation (the stage), and the audience (other individuals). The performances are the sources of a person’s meanings and information concerning themselves, the situations, and the observers. Discussing performances in his book, Goffman (1959:10) writes, “there is the popular view that the individual offers his performance and puts on his show ‘for the benefit of other people’”.
However, in his theory, the author explores a different perspective and study “the individual’s own belief in the impression of reality that he attempts to engender in those among whom he finds himself” (Goffman 1959:10). In that way, the actor’s performance is seen not only from the point of view of the audience but from the perspective of the self. The mutual influence of all the factors and participants of the performance is the focus of Goffman’s interest.
Overall, the concept of social roles is rather common in sociology. However, Goffman’s idea is to show that the performance does not have just one direction (from the actor to the viewers), but is a multidimensional action with a variety of impacts and outcomes that can be changed (consciously or unconsciously) by the actor, the audience, and the situations. The work of a teacher is a good illustration of the dramaturgical approach. First of all, a teacher performs in front of a class that serves as an audience the teacher adjusts their performance to build authority in the classroom, to connect with the learners, to establish discipline. The composition of the class impacts the teacher’s actions and strategies. For instance, contemporary teachers are trained to demonstrate culturally sensitive performances for diverse classrooms.
To sum up, Goffman’s theory of presentation of self is deep and meaningful. It concerns a variety of aspects and behaviors, includes the individuals and environmental impacts, and provides knowledge of multiple factors that are responsible for the way each individual participates in the interactions with the outer world.
Barnhart, Adam D. N. d. “Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” 2015. Web.
Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Edinburgh, UK: University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre.
Teuber, Andreas. N. d. “Erving Goffman.” Retrieved Nov. 1, 2015. Web.