American Ritual Dramas: Social Rules and Cultural Meanings

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Greenwood Press, Jan 1, 1989 - Social Science - 188 pages
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Deegan attempts a most unlikely synthesis of the cynical theories of Erving Goffman and the community-affirming views of Victor Turner. Moreover, in testing the result in the context of modern American rituals, Deegan adds a good measure of Marxist-oriented feminism to provide strong structural connections and depth to the analysis. The end result of this difficult and rough-edged synthesis is not without flaws, but it represents a highly creative, provocative, promising, and critical approach to modern American culture. . . . All of this makes for fascinating reading and is quite certain to hold the attention of professional sociologists and their students at all levels. Choice In a landmark contribution to the sociological literature, Mary Jo Deegan examines the underlying social patterns that generate American rituals. The first book to employ dramaturgical theory to analyze popular rituals such as football games and the singles bar scene, American Ritual Dramas draws upon the pioneering work of Erving Goffman, Victor Turner, and T. R. Young to construct a critical framework for examining the social structure of everyday life and its relation to times of celebration or fun. The result is a new and important clarification of two aspects of ritual life in America: the long-term patterns unique to our worldview and material life, and the rapid innovation of new rituals that impel modern life. In developing her arguments, Deegan looks at two major types of ritual: participatory rituals and media--constructed rituals. Through the use of the dramatic metaphor, she looks at the roles we play, the language we use, and the rules we follow in diverse ritual settings ranging from household auctions to the Star Trek television series and the written adventures of The Wizard of Oz. Extending the work of earlier theorists, Deegan looks for the first time in this context at the issues of sex and class and their relation to bureaucracy and modern uses of time. Her critical inquiry reveals that these familiar social rituals, and others like them, are paradoxically liberating and restricting at the same time. The solution lies, Deegan concludes, in fostering alternative ritual behavior patterns that liberate all members of the community in the democratic experience of playfulness.

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