Posted by: labbott12 | November 17, 2010

Sociological thought about Cullwick and Munby

So, here comes another interdisciplinary revelation I had in our last class session that I find relevant in adding to our discussion of Cullwick and Munby. In sociology, I’m writing a grueling paper on the presentation of self–specifically, gender performance. In an article titled “Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” by Erving Goffman, the theorist presents the following idea:

When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them. They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to possess, that the task he performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it, and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be. In line with this, there is the popular view that the individual offers his performance and puts on a show ‘for the benefit of other people.'(Goffman 109)

In thinking about Cullwick and Munby, this excerpt came to mind when we were discussing what representation was and how we have come to understand their relationship based on these images and writing. We may consider Cullwick as having performed for Munby through these images that are highly staged and pre-meditated and the diary that she wrote specifically for Munby’s viewing. In this aspect, Cullwick very much offers her performance ‘for the benefit of’ Munby. Perhaps this may add to our discussion of agency within the relationship. Was Hannah Cullwick performing chiefly for Munby? Can we really know? How does Goffman’s idea about interaction in performance of self add to our discussion?


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