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Unit information: Goffman, the Self and Interaction in 2016/17

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Unit name Goffman, the Self and Interaction
Unit code SOCI20032
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Flanagan
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit constitutes an in-depth introduction to the theoretical and methodological traditions of microsociology through the influential work of Goffman on social interaction in everyday life. This provides a focus for theory and research on the self, identity and morality with special reference to modernity and the conditions of postmodernity, questions which are central to contemporary sociological debate. Of particular concern are the implications of social fragmentation and ambiguity of appearance for the construction of the social bond. Issues of trust and distrust, of the self and its ethical basis, are investigated via studies of the presentation of self and impression management in a range of settings from total institutions to restaurants.


  • to highlight the significance of issues of the self and identity in sociology
  • to introduce sociological questions of appearance, ethics and the self through an understanding of Erving Goffman
  • to present and extend Goffman’s appreciation of the fragility of the self and its testing in the interaction order
  • to examine the ambiguous status of the actor in Goffman’s view of the world.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of Goffman’s style and focus in ways that mark his distinctive sociological properties
  2. To apply his concepts to areas of hazard involving the presentation of the self in everyday life in a variety of settings
  3. To understand the moral basis of his contributions to understanding the self, the role and its realisation in contemporary society
  4. To grasp his sociological debts to Simmel and Durkheim and to show how Goffman exploits their concepts

Teaching details

1hr lecture and 2hr seminar.

Assessment Details

Formative: 2000 word essay or equivalent

Summative: 2000 word essay or equivalent

Both formative and summative essays address learning outcomes 1-4.

Reading and References

  • A. Javier Trevino, ed., Goffman's Legacy, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
  • Erving Goffman Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to- face Behaviour, Pantheon Book, 1982
  • Greg Smith, Erving Goffman London: Routledge, 2006
  • Gary Alan Fine and Gregory W. H. Smith, eds., Erving Goffman, vols. 1-4, London: Sage, 2000.