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Erving Goffman

A Critical Introduction to Media and Communication Theory


Yves Winkin and Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz

Although Erving Goffman never claimed to be a media or communication scholar, his work is definitely relevant to, and has already served as a substantial resource for, those who are. This is the first detailed presentation and analysis of his life and work intended specifically for a communication audience. While primarily an introduction to Goffman’s work, those already familiar with his ideas will also learn something new. In addition to summarizing Goffman’s major concepts and his influence on other scholars, the book includes an intellectual biography, explication of his methods, and an example of how to extend his ideas. Readers are invited to consider Goffman as a lens through which to view much of the pattern evident in the social world. Goffman’s work always appealed to the general public (several of his books became bestsellers), and so this book has implications for those who are interested in the role of media or communication in their own lives as well as those who study it professionally.


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3. Goffman in Communication


c h a p t e r t h r e e Goffman in Communication Chapter 1 introduced readers to Goffman as not just an author but an individual, focusing on the contexts within which his ideas were generated. Chapter 2 de- scribed the ideas as presented in Goffman’s own publications rather than in rein- terpretations by others. Chapter 3 will now discuss how others (especially communication scholars) have already made use of his publications, and how new scholars can further extend his work. As “arguably the most original American theorist of the second half of the twentieth century” (Kivisto & Pittman, 2008, p. 272) Goffman provided an over- abundance of ideas for himself and others to use in understanding social behavior. As described in chapter 1, Goffman was employed within both sociology and an- thropology departments; in addition to these disciplines, his work has substantially influenced research within linguistics, political science, psychology, and communi- cation. In keeping with this, it also should not be surprising that Goffman’s ideas have been integrated into nearly all subfields within communication. Despite his training in sociology, Goffman is sometimes viewed as so central to communica- tion research that he comes to be identified as a communication scholar (e.g., B. Hall, 1991). As with over-exuberant claims about his nationality (someone who lived, worked and published in the United States most of his adult life might be characterized as American, despite being Canadian), we assume this is a matter of...

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