The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

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Understand everyday life from the perspective of theatrical performances

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. The main topic of the book displays the way to understand everyday life from the perspective of a theatrical performance. In Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, the main character Jaques said: “all the world’s 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.” In this statement, Shakespeare used the metaphor of the stage to describe society in which each individual is a player, and everyday life a performance happening on stage. For example, we may carefully dress up and choose our clothes before going on a date, or become fully observant and meticulous in our verbal communication with our boss. Moreover, we may take many selfies, select one and photoshop it for half an hour before finally posting it on social media. In fact, these are all performances in a particular social context. In this sense, it’s reasonable to say: “life is like a drama, and vice versa.” The author of this book, Erving Goffman, was an American sociologist and a famous social dramaturgical theorist. It’s worth mentioning that initially Goffman studied films and wanted to work in the film industry. Later, he developed a keen interest in sociology. So he dropped out and chose to major in the field at the University of Toronto. Afterward, he obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago and taught at the University of California, in Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania. Known as “one of the giants of 20th century sociology,” he was elected as the 73rd president of the American Sociological Association. Today’s book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life made Goffman famous. It is also the most influential of all his books. It was perhaps his experience in film studies that enabled him to view sociology from a distinctive perspective and establish the famous social dramaturgical theory. The theory holds that social behaviors are, in essence, social performances, and every individual is playing different roles. Hence, in nature, we are all “players.” Then, how can we understand people’s behaviors and interactions in everyday life from the perspective of a theatrical performance? We will illustrate this issue by answering the following three questions. Question One: How can we view social interaction from the perspective of a theatrical performance? Question Two: How can social members manage impressions on the stage? Question Three: How can we handle problems arising during the performance?

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