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Telling About Society



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Univ of Chicago Pr
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I Remember, one of French writer Georges Perec's most famous pieces, consists of 480 numbered paragraphseach just a few short lines recalling a memory from his childhood. The work has neither a beginning nor an end. Nor does it contain any analysis. But it nonetheless reveals profound truths about French society during the 1940s and 50s. Taking Perec's book as its cue,Telling About Societyexplores the unconventional ways we communicate what we know about society to others. The third in distinguished teacher Howard Becker's best-selling series of writing guides for social scientists, the book explores the many ways knowledge about society can be shared and interpreted through different forms of tellingfiction, films, photographs, maps, even mathematical modelsmany of which remain outside the boundaries of conventional social science. Eight case studies, including the photographs of Walker Evans, the plays of George Bernard Shaw, the novels of Jane Austen and Italo Calvino, and the sociology of Erving Goffman, provide convincing support for Becker's argument: that every way of telling about society is perfectfor some purpose. The trick is, as Becker notes, to discover what purpose is served by doing itthisway rather thanthat. With Becker's trademark humor and eminently practical advice,Telling About Societyis an ideal guide for social scientists in all fields, for artists interested in saying something about society, and for anyone interested in communicating knowledge in unconventional ways.

Author Biography

Howard Becker lives and works in San Francisco. He is the author of several books, including Outsiders, Writing for Social Scientists, and Tricks of the Trade, the latter two published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Telling About Societyp. 2
Representations of Society as Organizational Productsp. 15
Who Does What?p. 30
The Work Users Dop. 54
Standardization and Innovationp. 71
Summarizing Detailsp. 92
Reality Aestheticsp. 109
The Morality of Representationsp. 129
Parables, Ideal Types, and Mathematical Modelsp. 150
Charts: Thinking with Drawingsp. 167
Visual Sociology, Documentary Photography, and Photojournalismp. 186
Drama and Multivocality: Shaw, Churchill, and Shawnp. 204
Goffman, Language, and the Comparative Strategyp. 223
Jane Austen: The Novel as Social Analysisp. 238
Georges Perec's Experiments in Social Descriptionp. 252
Italo Calvino, Urbanologistp. 270
Finallyp. 285
Referencesp. 289
Indexp. 299
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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