A Brief Exploration of Dark Academia

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Century-old universities, cold brick stone halls, hand-written notes, and earth-tone vintage uniform. What a sense of nostalgia to feel as if we’ve travelled back in time. The peak interest of classical education ,with a moody flare, has encouraged many wide-eyed future scholars to live a romantic lifestyle of Dark Academia. 

As 2020’s Pandemic ensues chaos around the world of forced quarantine and isolation (for the sake of our safety of course), upcoming college students paint a creative outlet, to compensate the missing years of university. Who would ever thought Academia would be resurrected through social media.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

What is Dark Academia?

Dark Academia is a social subculture stemmed from TikTok and Instagram, emphasizing the love of classical reading, history, writing, and learning; with gothic elements to differentiate itself from other subcultures. Although not a new archetype in our human existence of social circles, the glamour of vintage books, brown sweaters, and oxfords are seen everywhere on Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media platforms for style inspiration. As if one is to embody a student hungry for knowledge, especially where they shouldn’t be sticking their noses in. As my good friend the duke once said in Resident Evil Village; “To hunger, is to be alive.”

Photo by Levent Simsek on Pexels.com

Reflecting on Dark Academia

D.A. (Dark Academia for short) almost feels sentimental; I too have been drawn to the subculture; I feel connected through the darker elements of my youth, but also the love for the 19th and 20 century architecture, language, and style. A reminiscence of vintage clothing, reading by a dark-lit hall, and a passion of curiosity. A temporary shift away from modern technology with tea-stained letters and fountain pens. Some might say the romance of the trend make a great distraction from the pandemic.

Dark Academia takes inspiration of primarily 19th and 20th century European academia culture; Although past eras are mentioned as well for inspiration. The glorification of European brick stoned universities and American Ivy League schools are the main inspiration, but one cannot help to view these architects to have secrets. The shroud of mystery becomes one of the main focal point to further expand Dark Academia, and its romanticization of higher education. However, lovers of Dark Academia know, or perhaps noticed, one of the key de facto the trend is to at least grab a copy of Donna Tartt’s novel,  The Secret History.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, 1992

According to Her Campus, Secret History has revolutionized the Academia culture as an essential guide to the academia mystery and entrance to the mystery elite. The novel sets in 1980 in a small liberal arts college in Vermont called Hampden. The moody imagery of the campus and an unexpected murder of a fellow classmate encompass the aspect of the aesthetics of academia, history, and gothic literature. 

Secret History  isn’t the only material D.A. lovers gravitate towards; Favorites of gothic literature include Withering Heights (my personal favorite), The Picture of Dorian Gray, and collective written works by prolific writers such Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and beat-generation poet, Allens Ginsburg. There are so many to list, however these candidates tend to show up in most blogs and Tumblr posts. 

Though I too have been entranced and fond of Dark Academia, I can also attest the criticism the culture has received. In another post, I will be discussing the criticism and counterargument of Dark Academia. 

For now, I bid you adieu, and Always open your mind to new and old worlds, and Ad Astra per Libras.

My favorite books to begin one’s journey to Dark Academia

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Mexican Gothic, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia (A great material to expand diverse D.A.)
Book Reflection: Mexican Gothic-The Horror of Colonization
Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

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