"Goffman writes... that it is not ‘men and their moments, but rather moments and their men."

This book is the written result of an interdisciplinary lecture class presented by philosophy and sociology professors at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville around their shared interest in the sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman gained notoriety after his death. According to professors Hood and Van de Vate, his ideas were cutting edge and hard to place in the field while he lived. Goffman dealt with micro-interactions, that is, everyday encounters between regular people, among other overlooked areas of investigation, believing that sociological change comes about individually, as each person develops over the course of a lifetime of moments taken as serious "games." The book engages with Goffman's ideas in the context of other thinkers in his field as well as through critique. As an amalgamation project, it is as difficult to shelve as to assess.

Like Goffman's thinking, the book's organization does not conform to expectations. It does not begin with an overview of the project or a summary of Goffman's biography or works. Instead, like Goffman's interactive moments, it starts in situ, taking up Goffman's themes—the self, society, experience—in a classroom setting to be discussed as living concepts. Chapters (or lectures) deal with one topic, such as exploring definitions of terms like body, identity games, and frame. The book cites Goffman's books and other literature, films, and even operas to which Goffman's work is compared, contrasted, and called into question. The two professors' perspectives complement each other. One uses more pop culture examples, while the other uses more cerebral ones. They overlap for a helpful reiteration of dense subject matter. Questions are posed, inviting the reader into the class, inspiring further inquiry and reflection.

That the book is intended as a college, if not graduate, level read is apparent in its vocabulary (some in Latin, French or German) and assumptions. Goffman's and other materials are referenced with the understanding that readers are familiar with them. In this way, reading this book requires patience and diligence. The subtle distinctions between individual and self, frame and moment, and stereotypes and biases become tedious at times. Humorous asides about academic "silliness" disarm and encourage perseverance. However, typographical errors diminish the book's effect.

The book's biggest insight is the extent to which individuals and their environment (or society)—physical, moral, and cultural—intersect. Individuals and environments shed light on each other as they interact in moments, which Goffman says are akin to games. Ground rules define each moment. Participant behavior then establishes new rules during the moment. Goffman explains his conclusions about individuals and society by showing what happens with persons un- or under-developed (such as those with mental illness) in institutional settings. He argues that asylums for mentally ill patients reveal society's failures toward its most vulnerable members and show where it requires the greatest amount of improvement. In other words, individuals' brokenness, particularly in institutional settings, reflects society's brokenness. The book points to sociology's obligation to the betterment of society beyond the lecture hall. In its unique presentation, the book highlights Goffman's outstanding contribution to the sociological body of knowledge.

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