The Drama of Social Life

A Dramaturgical Handbook

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  • Edited by Charles Edgley, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA
  • Series : Interactionist Currents
  • Whatever else they may be doing, human beings are also and always expressing themselves whenever they are in the awareness of others. As such, the metaphor of life as theater - of people playing roles to audiences who review them and then coordinate further action - is an ancient idea that has been resurrected by social scientists as an organizing simile for the analysis and understanding of social life. The Drama of Social Life examines this dramaturgical approach to social life, bringing together the latest original work from leading contemporary dramaturgical thinkers across the social sciences. Thematically organized, it explores:

    • the work of classical and contemporary thinkers who have contributed most to this theoretical framework
    • the foundational concepts of the dramaturgical approach
    • a rich array of substantive areas of empirical investigation to which dramaturgy continues to contribute
    • directions for future dramaturgical thinking.

    An indispensable collection that updates and extends the dramaturgical framework, The Drama of Social Life will appeal to scholars and students of sociology, social psychology, performance studies, cultural studies, communication, film studies, and anthropology - and all those interested in the work of Goffman and symbolic interactionist theory and practice.

  • Contents: Introduction, Charles Edgley; Part I Classical and Contemporary Thinkers and Perspectives in Dramaturgical Thought: Drama as life: the seminal contributions of Kenneth Burke, Ann Branaman; Tale of the evolutionary drama of symboling: a dramaturgical digression, Eugene Halton; Victor Turner’s dramaturgical theory of ritual, Karen L. Drummond; The dramaturgical legacy of Erving Goffman, Greg Smith. Part II Foundational Concepts: Situation and structure in the making of selves, Michael Schwalbe; Authenticity and dramaturgical self, J. Patrick Williams; Dramaturgy and motivation: motive talk, accounts, and disclaimers, John P. Hewitt; Role-distance, activity distance, and the dramaturgic metaphor, Robert A. Stebbins. Part III Substantive Investigations and Empirical Elaborations: Social movements and the dramatic framing of social reality, Robert D. Benford; The drama of dissent: police, protesters, and political impression management, Daniel D. Martin; Media dramas and the social construction of reality, David L. Altheide; The performative body: dramaturgy, the body, and embodiment, Dennis Waskul and Phillip Vannini; Museum drama and interaction order ‘sui generis’: works of art as hubs for co-orientation, Dirk vom Lehn; Puttin’ on your face: staged emotions among barbershop singers, Jeffrey E. Nash; Transsexuals’ gendered self-presentations, J. Edward Sumerau, Douglas P. Schrock and Teri Jo Reese; Sadomasochistic selves: dramaturgical dimensions of SM play, Staci Newmahr. Part IV The Future of Dramaturgical Thinking: The dramaturgy of digital experience, Annette Markham; Dramaturgy and post-structuralism, Phillip Vannini; Hypermodern dramaturgy in online encounters, Simon Gottschalk and Jennifer Whitmer; Index.

  • About the Editor: Charles Edgley is Adjunct Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, USA. He is co-author of A Nation of Meddlers, and co-editor of Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Sourcebook, and The Handbook of Thanatology.

  • Reviews: ‘The Drama of Social Life is a joy to read and a treasure trove for social analysts! It offers a unique, engaging, and clear-sighted explication of dramaturgical theory, highlighting not only its origins and foundational concepts, but also its contemporary applications and future directions. The editor, Charles Edgley, masterfully compiles a collection of essays that reveal the power and value of the dramaturgical perspective, particularly by illuminating how people create and enact meanings, identities, and social worlds.’
    Kent Sandstrom, North Dakota State University, USA

    'This collection is both coherent and cohesive. Edgley has compiled a fine assortment of essays here. They are sufficiently diverse, but are necessarily bounded by a commitment to demonstrating and explicating the dramatic character of social life. And, as sociologists of the everyday, we appreciate that this is the only drama on which the curtains will never close.'
    Symbolic Interaction