Goal of Assignment. (1) To break the ice in terms of writing about everyday life. (2) To demonstrate an appreciation for Goffman's observation that there are two kinds of communication when we are in the presence of others. (3) To practice and demonstrate the kind of introspection and self-consciousness needed to succeed in this course.
Instructions. Read pp. 3-6 of Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life focusing especially on the character Preedy. Write a short biographical essay (it can be fictionalized) that tracks the narrative of the Preedy passage but in a situation in your own life.
Of the two kinds of communication - expressions given and expressions given off - this report will be primarily concerned with the latter, with the more theatrical and contextual kind, the non-verbal, presumably unintentional kind, whether this communication be purposely engineered or not. As an example of what we must try to examine, I would like to cite at length a novelistic incident in which Preedy, a vacationing Englishman, makes his first appearance on the beach of his summer hotel in Spain1:
But in any case (he) took care to avoid catching anyone's eye. First of all, be had to make it clear to those potential companions of his holiday that they were of no concern to him whatsoever. He stared through them, round them, over them-eyes lost in space. The beach might have been empty. If by chance a ball was thrown his way, he looked surprised; then let a smile of amusement lighten his face (Kindly and Unfazeable Preedy), looked round dazed to see that there were people on the beach, tossed it back with a smile to himself and not a smile at the people, and then resumed carelessly his nonchalant survey of space.
But it was time to institute a little parade, the parade of the Ideal Preedy. By devious handlings he gave any who wanted to look a chance to see the title of his book, a Spanish translation of Homer, classic thus, but not daring, cosmopolitan too - and then gathered together his beach-wrap and bag into a neat sand-resistant pile (Methodical and Sensible Preedy), rose slowly to stretch at ease his huge frame (Big-Cat Preedy), and tossed aside his sandals (Carefree Preedy, after all).
The marriage of Preedy and the sea! There were alternative rituals. The first involved the stroll that turns into a run and a dive straight Into the water, thereafter smoothing into a strong splashless crawl towards the horizon. But of course not really to the horizon. Quite suddenly he would turn on to his back and thrash great white splashes with his legs, somehow thus showing that be could have swum further had he wanted to, and then would stand up a quarter out of water for all to see who It was.
The alternative course was simpler, it avoided the cold-water shock and it avoided the risk of appearing too high-spirited. The point was to appear to be so used to the sea, the Mediterranean, and this particular beach, that one might as well be in the sea as out of it. It involved a slow stroll down and into the edge of the water-not even noticing his toes were wet, land and water all the same to him - with his eyes up at the sky gravely surveying portents, invisible to others, of the weather (Local Fisherman Preedy).
Preedy, a visiting American, makes his first appearance in a naked co-ed sauna during his summer visit to Germany.
“But in any case he took care to avoid catching anyone's eye. First of all, he had to make it clear to those potential companions in the sauna that their bodies were of no concern to his eyes and their eyes of no concern whatsoever to his body. He stared through them, round them, over them-eyes lost in space. The facility might have been empty. If by chance a naked child ran his way, he looked surprised; then let a smile of amusement lighten his face (Kindly Preedy), welcoming the chance to have something to do other than looking for an empty chaise lounge to sit in. He looked round alarmed at the crowd of people who could probably tell he was looking in vain for a free spot, but tossed it back with a smile to himself and not a smile at the people, and then resumed carelessly his nonchalant survey of space trying to adopt a look that said "maybe I find a spot, maybe I don't – all the same to me.
“But it was time to institute a little parade, the parade of the actually-I'm-German Preedy. By devious handlings he gave any who wanted to look a chance to see the title of his book, a contemporary German novel, trendy thus, but not daring, cosmopolitan too - and then arranged his towel in a neat and orderly way on a free chair – exactly like the others around him but being sure not to look like he was imitating them (I-know-the-norms Preedy), and then he rose slowly to stretch and remove his robe sucking in his abs and straightening his back (fit middle-aged guy Preedy), and nonchalantly removed his flipflops, walked naked over to the edge of the pool as if he did it everyday, and dove in. (Carefree Preedy, after all).
“The marriage of Preedy and the wellness! There were alternative rituals. The first involved a session in the sauna that was followed by a casual walk over to the cold water dunking tank and a jump straight into the bone chilling water, thereafter moving slowly to suggest no hurry at all to get out. But of course he does not stay long. Quite suddenly he would pull himself up the latter and shaking the water off his limbs casually, somehow thus showing that he could have stayed in longer had he wanted to, and then would stand up tall at the edge of the tank for all to see who It was.
“The alternative course was simpler, it avoided the cold-water shock and it avoided the risk of appearing too much the overcompensating middle-aged man. The point was to appear to be so used to the sauna phenomenon, the steam baths and jacuzzis, and this particular facility, that one might as well be in the any of the facilities as out on the pool deck or in the quiet room. It involved a slow stroll up to each facility - not even noticing whether the naked bodies were male or female, attractive or not, or even whether the facility was crowded or empty – all the same to him – as he focused his eyes up on thermometers gravely assessing the appropriateness of the temperature, a detail to which others were oblivious, of the steam, water, or air. (Sauna Aficionado Preedy).