Friday, September 7, 2007

New set of skeletons

From Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, published in 1959, the same year as Life Studies:

"…interactive teams sometimes seem to be prepared to step out of the dramatic framework for their actions and give themselves up for extended periods of time to a promiscuous orgy of clinical, religious, or ethical analysis. We can find a lurid version of this process in evangelical social movements which employ the open confession. A sinner, sometimes admittedly not of very high status, stands up and tells to those who are present things he would ordinarily attempt to conceal or rationalize away; he sacrifices his secrets and his self-protective distance from others, and this sacrifice tends to induce a backstage solidarity among all present. Group therapy affords a similar mechanism… In-group solidarity tends to result, and this 'social support,' as it is called, presumably has therapeutic value. (By everyday standards, the only thing a patient loses in this way is his self-respect.) …

"It may be that these shifts from apartness to intimacy occur at times of chronic strain. Or perhaps we can view them as part of an anti-dramaturgical social movement, a cult of confession. Perhaps such lowering of barriers represents a natural phase in the social change which transforms one team into another: presumably opposing teams trade secrets so that they can start at the beginning to collect a new set of skeletons for a newly shared closet. In any case, we find that occasions arise when opposing teams, be they industrial, marital, or national, seem ready not only to tell their secrets to the same specialist but also to perform this disclosure in the enemy's presence." (204-205)

The second paragraph, in particular, deserves serious unpacking, which I don't quite feel up to at the moment. But I think it could be related to Adrienne's post back in July about poetry and self-display in the late 50s/early 60s.