chapter  9
21 Pages

Non-person and Goffman

Sociology under the influence of literature
WithAndrew Travers

I claim that from the start to the finish of his writing about face-to-face interaction Goffman anxiously usurps the influence of Emile Durkheim, and I argue that the displacement of Durkheim by Goffman is Goffman’s nihilistic patrimony to sociological studies. Goffman’s usurping of Durkheim’s influence is anxious because-in the literary-theoretical frame (Bloom 1973) that influences my reading of Goffman in this essay-an original writer stands in relation to a precursor as a child does to a father. Bloom says that the career of an original writer is devoted to reversing the flow of influences upon them so that the most influential precursor is eventually only read backwards in the light cast by the successor. Influence is thus a matter of high anxiety if originality is at stake, which in Goffman’s case it is in his extremity of inventing the new sociological topos of face-to-face interaction.