Professor Ribes’ Commentary on Dramaturgy (Erving Goffman and You)
So, then the primary approach that Goffman
developed, the sort of overarching term that we’ve given to it over time, is dramaturgy.
And the primary driving metaphor of that then is the idea of a stage, of a performance. Now,
it is however a metaphor and it’s important to remember that. It’s an analytic strategy
or methodology by which a social analyst can go in and understand the kinds of interactions
that are occurring, but in fact people do not feel when they’re engaged in these things
that we call “performances”. They don’t feel that they are on a stage, per se. The metaphor
falls apart when we think about the idea that these people are really experiencing what
is happening. They’re there, they’re in the setting. And so we don’t want to take too
far this idea of dramaturgy. We want to use it as an analytical metaphor and say, “What
is it to communicate to others on a regular basis?”. Let’s say you fail. Let’s say you
have an error, a public failure in a kind of performance. You will feel a great deal
of possibly shame certainly, but also you will doubt your own identity, your own competence.
“Am I a person who can perform this kind of role? Am I a person who’s able to successfully
pull off this performance?” And you’ll see it, right? Because we’re all very aware of
other people’s reactions to our performances. You’ll take that on as part of your identity,
and the reverse is also true. A successful performance repeated again and again with
the kind of feedback you get from others, you’ll eventually absorb that as part of your
identity that you are a successful performer of, you know, “x” kind of role.