Rewind your fantasy with the dark academia genre

More than an aesthetic, dark academia provides a way to indulge one's yearning for knowledge

Mia Nguyen
Mercury Staff

Dark academia is more than just a TikTok trend — it provides a refreshing escape from our technology-obsessed lives as it romanticizes the pursuit of knowledge through literature, classic architecture and a gothic color scheme.

Think blazers, pleated slacks and a novel clutched in your arms as you rush to your Greek classics class or write a letter to a loved one amidst the candlelight. Often people think about reading or completing schoolwork with a negative connotation, and I’m guilty of that as well. I mean, who actually appreciates staying up into the wee hours of the night writing a long essay about a topic they aren’t passionate about? Dark academia, however, is an aesthetic that glamorizes such tasks and reminds us that academia can be enthralling and exhilarating.

In this age of digital entertainment, it can be difficult to avoid looking at a screen 24/7. Spending your free time scrolling on your phone can be fun, but after a while, you feel lazy and as if you wasted your day. Romanticizing knowledge can make you pick up hobbies that feel productive and help you enjoy learning and the world to a fuller extent, as the dark academia subculture is pretty distant from the insipid digital world.

And while I read for enjoyment and think annotating pages of classics is fun, the pursuit of knowledge doesn’t have to be just this. It can also involve heading to an antique shop instead of a mall, starting a bullet journal or learning a new language. Doing activities such as these discredits the idea that learning is always serious and only about a numeric grade. Learning is enjoyable and facilitates a greater appreciation for the seemingly unexciting world around you.

The dark academia aesthetic is not merely a fashion statement. Instead, it is present in many forms of media such as literature and movies (past and present). Dark academic content combines tragedy and gothic themes with an intense passion for literature, the arts and classics in a way that is wonderfully melodramatic but real. Most books or movies that fall in this genre usually involve crime, take place at some prestigious school and contain beautiful prose or dialogue.

A good example of dark academia and one of the most recognized dark academic works is the “Dead Poets Society.” A group of young men at a private academy delve into poetry and literature in a way that makes them see the world with rose-colored lenses. Expectations of parents and the cruelty of reality cause tragedy to occur and eventually bring the characters grief.

Because most dark academic works are far removed from technology, they have a timeless nature that intrigues all generations. Once you dive into this subculture through clothing, a novel or something else, you’ll be mystified by groups of charismatic scholars equipped in tweed, clutching their satchels filled with copies of “The Iliad”or “Macbeth,” spouting prose like second nature. Perhaps then, you’ll be ready to convert to the dark side.


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