In Sociology, dramaturgy is a theory which interprets individual behaviour as the
dramatic projection of a chosen self. Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective stemming
from symbolic interactionism.
As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982) and symbolic interactionists since,
'dramaturgical model' is a metaphor for understanding human interaction and how humans
present their self in society.
All the world is conceived as a stage and individuals are seen as actors who
present a show of their self by putting their best foot forward.
The 'dramaturgical model' metaphor is extended by Goffman through concepts such as
front stage, back stage, presentation of self.
" . . . Erving Goffman (1922 - 1982) in his 'dramaturgical model' of social
relations . . . sees social life literally in terms of actors acting, that is, all of us
are like actors on a stage, presenting a play. The 'audience' is made up of other social
actors. We are all constantly play-acting all the time with each other. Thus, when we are
interacting with each other, we adopt strategies to try to ensure our acting is seen by
the audience (other people) in a way that reflects well on us. Essentially, Goffman sees
social interaction as involving 'impression management'. A social actor wants to feel that
he or she is performing the role that he or she is playing well".
In a dramaturgical model, social interaction is analyzed as part of a theatrical
performance. People are actors who must convey their personal characteristics and their
intentions to others through performances.
Dramaturgy emphasizes expressiveness as the main component of interactions. It is
termed a "fully two-sided view of human interaction".
Dramaturgical perspective is one of several sociological paradigms separated from
other sociological theories because it does not examine the cause of human behavior but
The Dramaturgical Model of Behavior: Its Strengths and Weaknesses
Bruce Wilshire? , RutgersThe State University of New Jersey
Symbolic Interaction, Fall 1982, Vol. 5, No. 2, Pages 287298
By means of the dramaturgical model we freshly illuminate social behavior as role-like
performances in which persons manage the impressions that others get of them.
This impression management involves the concealment of data in a dramatic
struggle with those others who wish to penetrate one's mask. But the chief
limitations of the dramaturgical model are that it excites the invalid inferences that
offstage roles are more like stage actors' roles than they really are, and
that the person is nothing but these roles. The differences between onstage
and offstage behavior are kept in view when the metaphorical concept of role
playing is re-connected to its source in role playing onstage. Through an analysis
of theatre and the concepts of appearance and time we conclude that while we must appear
to others in a role-like way offstage in order to be ourselves, we are
nevertheless involved in world-time offstage in a way that fundamentally distinguishes our
role-playing from an actor's role playing. We are our roles, but
not just our roles.
The Psycho-Social Bases of Scatological Humor: The Unmasking of the Self - William
Abstract: The interest of this subject lies in the fact that what would appear to be a
mere biological necessity creates a scandal. The general characteristics of scatological
humor are mockery of authority, physical contact with excrement, oddity of the act of
excretion, contemplation of the act or substance as a satisfaction in itself, incompetence
or naivetÚ of the actors, public awareness of a private act, de-emphasis of the human
face and emphasis on the posterior, and disarrangement of the clothing. Ilustrative
material is drawn from jokes, limericks, and references to Rabelais, Swift, CÚline,
Grass, Kosinski, Legman, etc. It becomes evident that by using Erving Goffman's model of
dramaturgical sociology (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Garden City: 1959), we
can see that scatological humor removes the props by which the self attempts to create and
control its image: clothing, privacy, secrecy, composition of the face, and self-control.
There is a general debasement of the human individual and at the same time an exaltation
of the basic organic existence of the self. This situation, whether in jokes or
literature, can be precisely expressed in Sartrean (and generally in an existential
vocabulary): Scatological humor, unexpected flatulence, public excretion and other such
acts are the proof of the independent behavior of the en-soi, which reveals the ultimate
facticity (the rootedness of the pour-soi in the en-soi) of the pour-soi and destroys the
latter's claims to be the origin of itself, of its freedom, and threaten the very
existence of the pour-soi. This reduction of the self to flesh is Sartre's definition of
sadism. We are then encouraged to develop the following hypothesis: Scatological humor is
more evident in a society where strong individualism is a cultural value: conversely,
scatological humor would be less obvious in a society where the individual was of lesser
importance, where his identity was created by fixed social roles or by strong tribal
definitions. - msubillings.edu/CASFaculty/Plank/humor.htm