Explorations question #1

Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, p. 101:

For example, during the showing of the body at a funeral home, usually the social setting and all participants, including both the bereaved team and the establishment's team, will be arranged so as to express their feelings for the deceased and their ties to him; he will be the center of the show and the dramatically dominant participant in it. However, since the bereaved are inexperienced and grief-laden, and since the star of the show must stay in character as someone who is in a deep sleep, the undertaker himself will direct the show, although he may all the while be self-effacing in the presence of the corpse or be in another room of the etsablishment getting ready for another showing.

There is admittedly something odd, I think, about treating a solemn event like a funeral as a performance. But this oddness might be revealing, so to speak, even though it might also be taken as disrespectful. So the question is: in this case, which is it? Is Goffman's treatment of this and other social occasions revealing, or disrespectful?

As a suggestion, consider reflecting on some important and solemn occasion in which you have participated, and applying Goffman's performance metaphor to it. Does that detract from the solemnity of the occasion?

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