3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read For All Serious Sociologists,
This review is from: Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (Penguin Social Sciences) (Paperback)
As a sociology postgraduate and teacher, I have come across this book many times in my academic career. Asylums is the result of many years of observation of mental institutes and is an excellent title that is easily accessible by any one studying at A-level or higher. If you plan to study and look at this book in great depth, then I would recommend looking first at Goffman's 'Frame Analysis' As with most of Goffman's work, it is best understood through his own words, as it can be open to interpretation and when reading other authors like Giddens, I feel more like I am getting their interpretation and opinion rather than the raw information.
It is a good segway into symbolic interactionist thought and discussion, though basic prior knowledge of the symbolic interactionist tradition would be useful, it does put you into the thick of the theory. This and its follow up paper 'Stigma. Notes on the management of spoiled identity' have been used countless times on my degree and postgraduate courses. Other works that may also interest you that also works on the idea of roles and dramaturgy is P.G.Zimbardo's prison experiment, which gives further validity to Asylums.
It is important to remember that this is not a medical text book, it is not meant to explain mental illness in any way, but rather show how his theory can be used to explore roles, stigma and identity, picking extreme cases like those within total institutions.