In the 1950's, the psychologist Erving Goffman developed the concept of the Total Institution. This, he defined as:
enclosed, formally administered round of life.’
It was the heyday of the 'mental asylum' and of the boarding school, even the convent. Care in the community wasn't even embryonic and criminals were far more likely to be incarcerated than paroled. Goffman was talking about actual bricks-and-mortar buildings where people on the inside only had contact with people on the outside through a strict system of gatekeeping. These places were, then, worlds within worlds; they were enclosed.
Now, I'm fast-forwarding through lots of theoretical and philosophical debate (I find this fascinating, but I might just be weird), and - you'll have to trust me on this - somewhat redefining Goffman's concept. Let me ask you writers and readers still with me, to take a gigantic leap of faith and think about those words: totality, enclosure, gatekeeping... and consider:-
Is possible to describe a fictional world, created by a novelist, as a Total Institution? Such a world and its characters are enclosed in the writer's imagination, and that writer is the gatekeeper between the fictional world (the story) and the real world (the reader).
Is the basis of fiction a world within a world, or am I simply locked in my own little world wherein lies much madness? Any thoughts appreciated, especially since the critical text of my PhD is in here. Somewhere!
I'm plodding on regardless. banking on the words of Emily Dickinson: