The concept of ‘frame’ as used in art and literary criticism has its roots in the writings of Russian Formalists like Iouri Lotman and Boris Uspensky. Following in the footsteps of these critics, and acknowledging his debt to them, Erving Goffman has applied the concept to analysis of social behaviour.2 Frame, therefore, is not a concept which is restricted to literature or even to art in general but is an abstract notion which refers to the complex system of operations dictating the relationship between the subject and all forms of ‘organization’ (to use Goffman’s term) or ‘composition’ (to use Uspensky’s). The value of this concept lies in the fact that it embraces both the internal structure of a given work and its reception. It not only presupposes that analysis of the different readings of a text or painting involves analysis of the work’s internal composition, but also that a study of the latter remains totally inadequate if it fails to include an account of the different means of approach available to the reader. Goffman’s use of the concept with regard to certain categories of events in social life similarly implies a two-way process of analysis:

definitions are built up in accordance with principles of organization which govern events — at least social ones — and our subjective involvement in them; frame is the word I use to refer to such of these basic elements as I am able to identify.3


Semantic Function Linear Perspective Outer Frame External Frame National Gallery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Notes and Reference

  1. 3.
    Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis (Harmondsworth, 1974), pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  2. 17.
    Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics (London, 1975), p. 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 18.
    B. S. Johnson, Travelling People (Letchworth, 1963), p. 11.Google Scholar
  4. 36.
    Claude Simon, interview with Claud Duverlie, in Sub-Stance, 8 (March 1974), 9.Google Scholar

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© Michael J. Evans 1988

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  • Michael Evans

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