Erving Goffman’s Trite Metaphors

Erving Goffman’s Trite Metaphors

Kravchenko E.I.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Prof., Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

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For citation:

Kravchenko E.I. Erving Goffman’s Trite Metaphors. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 6. P. 3-15


The article reconsiders Goffman’s legacy in the light of present-day realities. The author deems the revitalization of cognitive metaphors to be premise and necessary condition for viability of the dramaturgical perspective. Metaphors awaken when they begin to wake us up, come to life when they give us life. In view of this, an attempt has been made to reveal all-too-human and atemporal facets of the tropes we are all very familiar with – in other words, their primary existential foundations. However, as G. Lakoff and M. Johnson put it, relationships between metaphors are based on entailment, or on sub-categorization. Sharing P. Riсоеur’s point of view that “metaphorical sense as such feeds on the density of the imagery released by the poem” – and actually, by any metaphorical text – the author makes clear meanings elusive and “deciphers” Goffman’s writings using his (Goffman’s) own “prompt messages” or low-key details to resolve some kind of semantic ellipsis. As a result, key metaphorical lines of reasoning under discussion include (1) perspective–frame–door; (2) world–theatre/as if–sleep; (3) man–actor–shadow. Our attention is drawn to the astounding similarity between frame analysis and brushwork of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte who challenged preconditioned perceptions of familiar things giving them new contextual meanings. In the concluding section a cautionary note about the possible transformation of Goffmanisque metaphors to prophecy is sounded.

E. Goffman; dramaturgical perspective; living metaphor; prophetic metaphor; framedoor; theatre-sleep; actor-shadow
Content No 6, 2022