Every few months, there seems to be a new obsession circulating on social media, such as a renewed love for Harry Potter or Timothée Chalamet. One that has been around for a while now, and one that has personally stuck with me, is the interest and love for what is known as dark academia.
Dark academia is an aesthetic comprising a love for higher education, classical literature, gothic architecture and a passion for knowledge. It is usually set in the dark and gloomy atmosphere of the winter months such as October and November. This aesthetic has been widely popular on the social media app TikTok, with multiple people creating videos of what life would be like living life in this way and often a longing for this life. One of the best ways to learn about this aesthetic is to search it on either TikTok or Pinterest. There you will be presented with numerous photos and videos of old libraries, universities that have gothic architecture such as Oxford university, books and much more. If you think about it, it seems to resemble very closely what we see in Harry Potter – the first movie – before they applied that grey filter that made everything seem so cold and empty.
I think this particular aesthetic is extremely popular because it provides an inexplicable sense of comfort and warmth. The warm glow of candle light and the sublimity of the gothic architecture inspires art and feeds the soul; we are encouraged to self-reflect and to learn more about the world around us. It is almost a way of returning to the world of antiquity. There are some great books to read if you want to feel like you’re in this wonderful world of academia. The absolute holy grail of dark academia literature (for me anyway) is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Where ever dark academia is mentioned, The Secret History is not far behind, and for good reason. The book is set at a college in New England where a group of five students learn to think and live as people once did in the past, a step away from contemporary life. With beautiful descriptions of an autumnal landscape, references to classical literature, and a murder thrown in the mix, no wonder it is such a staple in the dark academia world. I read this book in October and it is now a personal favourite. It makes you appreciate the winter months and makes you nostalgic for student life. This book made me miss university life so much; going to the Maughan Library for a day of studying, having coffee breaks and reading in the little quad just across the main entrance. I have to admit, I lived my university life vicariously through them for a little while, before it got a little … twisted. I highly recommend reading this book to get the feel of dark academia.
There’s also lots of movies that can fall under the category of dark academia, an obvious one being Dead Poet’s Society. This reminded me of The Secret History a lot; the cult-like dynamic of a group of students around a beloved teacher who shows them a different way of seeing the world. Filled with references to poetry and literature, this movie heightens your appreciation for the arts and makes you want to read poetry out loud every night with a group of friends. The setting is similar to The Secret History as well: autumnal landscape and dark lighting. If I could describe dark academia in three words they would be: dark, autumn, books. That’s a pretty good summary, if I do say so myself.
Another great video to watch if you want to know how to live a more dark academia life is Ruby Granger’s video on dark academia on YouTube. It’s a good way to see how we can incorporate elements of this aesthetic into our everyday lives.
I have always loved art and literature and this aesthetic encompasses what most of us love about university life. It makes us feel as though our pursuit of knowledge is important for the world and encourages us to learn and read more than we normally would; it inspires creativity. I think this obsession is not one that will be forgotten anytime soon, it seems like a timeless one.