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Tag: academic

As the cold crept in during the bleak end of 2020 and students emerged from online school to the release of a winter break, a trend befitting the climate and attitude of the season surfaced. The search term “dark academia aesthetic” peaked on Google as one year turned to the next, gaining traction on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Tumblr. Videos informing viewers how to dress in line with the trend and blog posts listing clutter items associated with the dark academic — like old books, cigarettes, coffee, and moth-eaten cashmere sweaters — abounded. Influencers had established an online space for lovers of all things erudite, donnish, and elite.

The dark academia trend draws on the aesthetics of mid-20th century and prewar college life, with a particular focus on the conflict between academic refinement and the debauchery supplying the dark edge to the style. Although the phrase rose to prominence online as an aesthetic descriptor, dark academia has its roots in a literary genre dating back to the early 20th century. Novels such as E.M. Forster’s “Maurice” and Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” form the aesthetic’s literary canon, texts from which its followers draw soundbites and quotes to foreground videos of dark oak libraries and photos of messy desks. By whittling these works down to just the bare bones of well-written dialogue in a quaint setting, however, many online dark academia enthusiasts are ignoring the thematic messages that underlie the genre.

In an history-and-what-it-means-for-classics-in-the-21st-century/”April 2023 article for Ekklesia Magazine about “The Secret History,” writer Tom Hilless calls aestheticization “inherently un-critical.” His point rings especially true in the case of dark academia: The aesthetic most embraces the aspects of scholastic life that the literary genre strives to rebuke. Straight-cut clothing and haughty mannerisms form motifs in Tartt’s

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