Metaphorical analogies in approaches of Victor Turner and Erving Goffman: Dramaturgy in social interaction and dramas of social life

  • Ester Võsu


Metaphorical analogies have been popular in different forms of reasoning, theatre and drama analogy among them. From the semiotic perspective, theatre is a representation of reality. Characteristic to theatrical representation is the fact that for creating representations of reality it uses, to a great extent, the materiality and cultural codes that also constitute our everyday life; sometimes the means of representation are even iconically identical to the latter. This likeness has inspired numerous writers, philosophers and, later, social scientists to look for particular similarities between social life, drama and theatre. In this paper I chose two particular approaches from the social sciences that make use of the metaphorical analogy of theatre in quite different, yet, to certain extent, also overlapping ways — Victor Turner’s concept of “social dramas” from anthropology and Erving Goffman’s “dramaturgy” of social interactions from sociology. The former bases his analogy more on the structure of the dramatic text and on a key resemblance in the (dramatic) conflict, whereas the latter builds his analogy on the principles of performing used in theatre, and regards characters and roles as major resemblances between action on stage and in social space. This paper examines these key resemblances and sheds light on what kind of interpretations of culture  and society emerge when theatre analogies are put into action. In the concluding section some general problems, related to extended metaphors and analogical explanations the researcher needs to face with, are discussed.


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