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A paracosm is a detailed
imaginary world A fictional universe, or fictional world, is a Consistency, self-consistent Setting (narrative), setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed, or fictional realm ...
. Paracosms are thought generally to originate in childhood and to have one or numerous creators. The creator of a paracosm has a complex and deeply felt relationship with this subjective universe, which may incorporate real-world or imaginary characters and conventions. Commonly having its own geography, history, and language, it is an experience that is often developed during childhood and continues over a long period of time, months or even years, as a sophisticated reality that can last into adulthood.Kristin Petrella,
A Crucial Juncture: The Paracosmic Approach to the Private Worlds of Lewis Carroll and the Brontës
". In ''Surface'', Syracuse University Honors Program, Spring 2009-05-01. (PDF)


Origin and usage

The concept was first described by a researcher for the
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...
, Robert Silvey, with later research by British psychiatrist Stephen A. MacKeith and British
psychologist A psychologist is a professional who practices psychology and studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, interpreting, and recording how ...
David Cohen. The term "paracosm" was coined by Ben Vincent, a participant in Silvey's 1976 study and a self-professed paracosmist.Christine Alexander, "Playing the author: children's creative writing, paracosms and the construction of family magazines." In Kate Darian-Smith, Carla Pascoe (eds.), ''Children, Childhood and Cultural Heritage''. Routledge, 2013. Psychiatrists Delmont Morrison and Shirley Morrison mention paracosms and "paracosmic fantasy" in their book ''Memories of Loss and Dreams of Perfection'', in the context of people who have suffered the death of a loved one or some other tragedy in childhood. For such people, paracosms function as a way of processing and understanding their early loss. They cite James M. Barrie, Isak Dinesen and
Emily Brontë Emily Jane Brontë (, commonly ; 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, ''Wuthering Heights ''Wuthering Heights'' is an 1847 novel by Emily Brontë Emily Jane Brontë ( ...

Emily Brontë
as examples of people who created paracosms after the deaths of family members. Marjorie Taylor is another child development psychologist who explores paracosms as part of a study on
imaginary friend Imaginary friends (also known as pretend friends, invisible friends or made-up friends) are a psychological and socialogy, social phenomenon where a friendship or other interpersonal relationship takes place in the imagination rather than physica ...
s. In
Adam Gopnik Adam Gopnik (born August 24, 1956) is an American writer and essayist. He is best known as a staff writer for ''The New Yorker ''The New Yorker'' is an American weekly magazine featuring journalism Journalism is the production and d ...

Adam Gopnik
's essay, "Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli", he consults his sister, a child psychologist, about his three-year-old daughter's imaginary friend. He is introduced to Taylor's ideas and told that children invent paracosms as a way of orienting themselves in reality. Similarly, creativity scholar Michele Root-Bernstein discusses her daughter's invention of an imaginary world, one that lasted for over a decade, in the 2014 book, ''Inventing Imaginary Worlds: From Childhood Play to Adult Creativity''. Paracosms are also mentioned in articles about types of childhood creativity and problem-solving. Some scholars believe paracosm play indicates high intelligence. A Michigan State University study undertaken by Root-Bernstein revealed that many
MacArthur Fellows Program The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to between 20 and 30 indi ...
recipients had paracosms as children, thus engaging in what she calls worldplay. Sampled MacArthur Fellows were twice as likely to have engaged in childhood worldplay as MSU undergraduates. They were also significantly more likely than MSU students to recognize aspects of worldplay in their adult professional work. Indeed, paracosm play is recognized as one of the indicators of a high level of creativity, which educators now realize is as important as intelligence. In an article in the ''International Handbook on Giftedness'', Root-Bernstein writes about paracosm play in childhood as an indicator of considerable creative potential, which may "supplement objective measures of intellectual giftedness ... as well as subjective measures of superior technical talent." There is also a chapter on paracosm play in the 2013 textbook ''Children, Childhood and Cultural Heritage'', written by Christine Alexander. She sees it, along with independent writing, as attempts by children to create
agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution * the abstract principle that autonomous beings, agents, are capable of acting by themselves; see autonomy Abstract principle * Agency (law), a person acting on behalf of another perso ...
for themselves. Paracosms are one of the subjects of interest to the emerging field of literary
juvenilia Juvenilia are literary, musical or artistic works produced by authors during their youth. Written juvenilia, if published at all, usually appears as a retrospective publication, some time after the author has become well known for later works. ...
, studying the childhood writings of well-known and lesser-known authors. Joetta Harty in her essay "Imagining the Nation, Imagining an Empire: A Tour of Nineteenth-Century British Paracosms" contextualizes the paracosms of 19th-century British children, including the
Brontë family The Brontës () were a nineteenth-century literary family, born in the village of Thornton, West Yorkshire, Thornton and later associated with the village of Haworth in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. The sisters, Charlotte Brontë, Ch ...
,
Thomas De Quincey Thomas Penson De Quincey (; 15 August 17858 December 1859) was an English writer, essayist, and literary critic, best known for his ''Confessions of an English Opium-Eater ''Confessions of an English Opium-Eater'' ( 1821) is an autobiographi ...
's Gombroon and
Hartley Coleridge Hartley Coleridge, possibly David Hartley Coleridge, (19 September 1796 – 6 January 1849) was an English poet, biographer, essayist, and teacher. He was the eldest son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His sister Sara Coleridge was a poet and ...

Hartley Coleridge
's Ejuxria, with then-current events. Nike Sulway in "'A Date with Barbara': Paracosms of the Self in Biographies of Barbara Newhall Follett" explores adult reaction to children perceived as prodigies or geniuses, focusing on how their biographies often focus on their imaginations and paracosmic creations rather than on their daily lives, citing as an example adult reactions to child author
Barbara Newhall Follett Barbara Newhall Follett
. Columbia University Archive Collection. Retrieved February 17, 2 ...
. In ''Virtual Play and the Victorian Novel'', Timothy Gao focuses on "paracosmic play or worldplay" on the part of De Quincey, Coleridge, Charlotte Brontë,
Anna Jameson Anna Brownell Jameson (17 May 179417 March 1860) was the first Anglo-Irish art historian. Born in Ireland, she migrated to England at the age of four, becoming a well-known British writer and contributor to nineteenth-century thought on a range ...
, and
Anthony Trollope Anthony Trollope (; 24 April 1815 – 6 December 1882) was an English novelist and civil servant of the Victorian era. Among his best-known works is a series of novels collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which revolves around t ...

Anthony Trollope
.


Examples

Examples of paracosms include: *
Middle-earth Middle-earth is the fictional setting Setting may refer to: * A location (geography) where something is set * Set construction in theatrical scenery * Setting (narrative), the place and time in a work of narrative, especially fiction * Settin ...
, the highly detailed fantasy world created by
J.R.R. Tolkien John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (; 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary cr ...
, as expressed in his novels ''
The Lord of the Rings ''The Lord of the Rings'' is an Epic (genre), epic high-fantasy novel by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, intended to be Earth at some distant time in the past, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 ...
'' and ''
The Hobbit ''The Hobbit, or There and Back Again'' is a Juvenile fantasy, children's fantasy novel by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal (literary award), Carnegie ...
'', as well as a sizable body of writings published posthumously containing fictional histories, languages and other reference material. Tolkien had been inventing languages since his teen years, only later imagining the people who spoke them or their environment. * Gondal, Angria, and Gaaldine, the fantasy kingdoms created and written about in childhood by Emily, Anne, and Charlotte , and their brother Branwell, and maintained well into adulthood. These kingdoms are specifically referred to as paracosms in several academic works. * Pamela Russell, Head of Education and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs for the
Mead Art Museum Mead Art Museum houses the fine art collection of Amherst College Amherst College ( ) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingd ...
at
Amherst College Amherst College ( ) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
, specifically uses the word "paracosm" in describing the imaginary world created by
Goshen, New Hampshire Goshen is a New England town, town in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 810 at the 2010 census.United States Census BureauU.S. Census website 2010 Census figures. Retrieved March 23, 2 ...
teens Walter, Arthur and Elmer Nelson in the 1890s and chronicled in a collection of miniature books. * K.C. Remington has written over twenty books in the ''Webbster and Button Children's Stories'' series, set in a paracosm called the Big Green Woods. *
Hartley Coleridge Hartley Coleridge, possibly David Hartley Coleridge, (19 September 1796 – 6 January 1849) was an English poet, biographer, essayist, and teacher. He was the eldest son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His sister Sara Coleridge was a poet and ...

Hartley Coleridge
, created and maintained the land of Ejuxria all his life. *
Austin Tappan Wright Austin Tappan Wright (August 20, 1883 – September 18, 1931) was an American legal scholar and author, best remembered for his major work of Utopian fiction, ''Islandia (novel), Islandia''. He was the son of classical scholar John Henry Wright an ...

Austin Tappan Wright
's '' Islandia'' began as a childhood paracosm. * M.A.R. Barker began developing Tekumel at age ten. *
Ed Greenwood Ed Greenwood (born July 21, 1959) is a Canadian fantasy writer and the original creator of the ''Forgotten Realms Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting for the ''Dungeons & Dragons'' (''D&D'') Role-playing game, fantasy role-playing game. Comm ...

Ed Greenwood
(born 1959) began writing stories about the
Forgotten Realms Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting A campaign setting is usually a fictional world Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagination, imaginary—in o ...
as a child, starting around 1967; they were his "dream space for swords and sorcery stories". Winter, Steve;
Greenwood, Ed Ed Greenwood (born July 21, 1959) is a Canadian fantasy writer and the original creator of the ''Forgotten Realms'' game world. He began writing articles about the Forgotten Realms for ''Dragon (magazine), Dragon'' magazine beginning in 1979, and ...

Greenwood, Ed
;
Grubb, JeffGrubb is a family name and may refer to the following: * Catharina Elisabet Grubb (1721–1788), Finnish industrialist * Curtis Grubb (c. 1730 – 1789), American patriot and politician, majority owner and operator of the Cornwall Iron Works, son of ...
. ''
30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons 3 (three) is a number, numeral (linguistics), numeral and numerical digit, digit. It is the natural number following 2 and preceding 4, and is the smallest odd prime number and the only prime preceding a square number. It has religious or cultur ...
'', pages 74-87. (
Wizards of the Coast #REDIRECT Wizards of the Coast Wizards of the Coast LLC (often referred to as WotC or simply Wizards) is an American publisher of games, primarily based on fantasy and List of science fiction themes, science fiction themes, and formerly an ...
, 2004).
* Borovnia, the fantasy kingdom created by Juliet Hulme and
Pauline ParkerPauline may refer to: Religion *An adjective referring to St Paul the Apostle or a follower of his doctrines *An adjective referring to St Paul of Thebes, also called St Paul the First Hermit *An adjective referring to the Paulines, various relig ...
in their mid-teens, as portrayed in the film ''
Heavenly Creatures ''Heavenly Creatures'' is a 1994 New Zealand biographical A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a p ...
''. * The modern fantasy author
Steph Swainston Stephanie Jane "Steph" Swainston is a British literary fantasy/science fiction author, known for the ''Castle'' series. Her debut novel, ''The Year of Our War'' (2004), won the 2005 Crawford Award and a nomination for the John W. Campbell Award fo ...
's world of ''the Fourlands'' is another example of an early childhood paracosm. *
Henry Darger Henry Joseph Darger Jr. (; April 12, 1892 – April 13, 1973) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States ...
began writing about the Realms of the Unreal in his late teens and continued to write and illustrate it for decades. * Terry Pratchett's
Discworld ''Discworld'' is a comic fantasy Fantasy comedy or comic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Typically set in imaginary worlds, fantasy comedy often includes puns on and parodies of other works of ...

Discworld
, detailed in some 33 books, is considered to be an extremely detailed paracosm. *
Joanne Greenberg Joanne Greenberg (born September 24, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American author best known for the bestselling novel ''I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (novel), I Never Promised You a Rose Garden'', written under the pen name of Hannah Gre ...
created a paracosm called Iria as a young girl, and described it to
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (October 23, 1889 in Karlsruhe Karlsruhe (, also , ; formerly spelled Carlsruhe) is the second-largest List of cities and towns in Germany, city of the Germany, German federal state of Baden-Württemberg after its capital o ...
while hospitalized at
Chestnut Lodge Chestnut Lodge (formerly known as Woodlawn Hotel) was a historic building in Rockville, Maryland, United States, well known as a Lunatic asylum, psychiatric institution. It was a contributing property to the West Montgomery Avenue Historic Distric ...
. Fromm-Reichmann wrote about it in an article for the American Journal of Psychiatry; Greenberg wrote about it as the Kingdom of Yr in her novel '' I Never Promised You a Rose Garden''. * As children, novelist C. S. Lewis and his brother
Warren A warren is a network of wild rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
together created a paracosm called Boxen which was, in turn, a combination of their respective private paracosms Animal-Land and India. Lewis later drew upon Animal-Land to create the fantasy land of
Narnia ''The Chronicles of Narnia'' is a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C. S. Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes Pauline Diana Baynes (9 September 1922 – 1 August 2008) was an English people, English illustrator, a ...
, which he wrote about in ''
The Chronicles of Narnia ''The Chronicles of Narnia'' is a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C. S. Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes and originally published between 1950 and 1956, ''The Chronicles of Narnia'' has been Adaptations of The Chronicles ...
''. * The documentary film Marwencol centres on an imaginary town created by artist Mark Hogancamp as a kind of therapy for trauma and brain injury brought about by a violent assault. * Additional paracosmists are listed in Root-Bernstein's ''Inventing Imaginary Worlds: From Childhood Play to Adult Creativity Across the Arts and Sciences'', 2014, and on the related website, Inventing Imaginary Worlds.


See also

*
Fantasy prone personality Fantasy prone personality (FPP) is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in Fantasy (psychology), fantasy. This disposition is an attempt, at least in part, to better describe "ove ...
*
Fantasy (psychology) In psychology, fantasy is a broad range of mental experiences, mediated by the faculty of imagination Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind The mind is the set of faculties respo ...
*
Fantasy world A fantasy world is an author-conceived world created in fictional media, such as literature, film or games. Typical fantasy worlds involve magic or magical abilities, nonexistent technology and sometimes, either a historical History (from A ...
*
Imaginary world A fictional universe, or fictional world, is a Consistency, self-consistent Setting (narrative), setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed, or fictional realm ...
*
Imagination Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind The mind is the set of faculties responsible for mental Phenomenon, phenomena. Often the term is also identified with the phenomena themselves. ...

Imagination
* Maladaptive daydreaming *
Method of loci The method of loci (''loci'' being Latin for "places") is a strategy of memory enhancement which uses Mental image, visualizations of familiar spatial environments in order to enhance the recall of information. The method of loci is also known ...
*
Worldbuilding Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a fictional universe A fictional universe, or fictional world, is a self-consistent In classical deductive logic Deductive reasoning, also deducti ...


References


External links

*Francis Jacox
Ejuxria and Gombroon: Glimpses of Day-Dreamland
1871 essay discusses many paracosms created by people who later became writers, although he never uses the word. *Elizabeth Knox

discusses the creative process as paracosms evolve into adulthood. *Sarah Knox

is a response to Elizabeth's essay. {{Fiction navbox Imagination Worldbuilding