Sunday, 27 December 2009

Jokes and proper behaviour

A couple of weeks back I mentioned that I think that jokes or humorous stories told at work often carry a moral about appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. This is something that I've blogged about a bit before as it's closely related to the topic of narratives. One of the books I've got in my stack of reading material is The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman which is obviously all about the way people behave. And here's a snippet from the introduction which is in the same territory:
Practical jokes and social games are played in which embarrassments which are to be taken unseriously are purposely engineered. Anecdotes from the past - real, embroidered or fictitious - are told and retold, detailing disruptions which occurred [to the way a person presents themself], almost occurred, or occurred and were admirably resolved. There seems to be no grouping which does not have a ready supply of these games, reveries, and cautionary tales, to be used as a source of humour, a catharsis for anxieties, and a sanction for inducing individuals to be modest in their claims and reasonable in their projected expectations.

Incidentally the perspective Goffman developed is known as dramaturgy. This is clearly similar to the the idea of 'dramatism' developed by Kenneth Burke (who gets a mention or two), and about whom I've blogged before. And Burke of course leads on to my old fave Walter Fisher.

1 comment:

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