“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”
This fascinating quote hails from Donna Tart’s much-touted book, The Secret History. Tartt published the book when she was 28, and her debut novel went ahead to be etched in the names of literary classics all over the world.
This book gave birth to a renowned trend that we call “Dark Academia” today. For those who aren’t aware of the movement, “The Dead Poets Society”, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and of course, “The Secret History”, are the best works to start with.
To give a brief idea, it encourages aesthetics and arts, and is centred around dead languages like Italian and Greek architecture amongst the others. It regained fame since the COVID-19 Pandemic, and has only been getting popular since. Given that one has a raging passion for learning, anyone can be an academic—be they computer geeks or book nerds.
Along with that, fashion is a major player in the academia. Needless to mention, the attire is tilted towards the darker spectrum of colours. Oversized sweaters, chic turtlenecks and cashmere cardigans are permanent in the Academics’ wardrobe, and pairing them with plaid skirts or cigarette pants brings every couturier’s dream come to life.
Dark academia is reading Oscar Wilde in a dimly lit room while raindrops patter against the autumnal window. It is staying up till 4 in the morning and writing notes in your vintage journal. It is sipping your 7th cup of coffee while perusing the bookshelves of a Gothic library.
However, Dark Academia isn’t as ideal and innocent of a trend as it comes across as.
Despite the aesthetic appeal and apparent inclusiveness, it has its fair share of issues that need sorting out. Most of them go hidden behind the veil of “romanticism”, while some are straight up ignored by the audience.
If you study the aforementioned works closely, you can conclude that they are highly Eurocentric. The art is made by the Whites and for the Whites, with barely any representation of people of colour or physically disabled people.
The idea that some people can be poverty-ridden, physically challenged, or simply different from the ones represented by Tartt or Wilde, is completely ignored.
What’s worse, is that even after setting aside these flaws, the academia stands to be problematic. It silently promotes destructive habits like that of pulling all nighters, being so sleep deprived that you border on insomnia, or consuming unreal quantities of caffeine. The problem isn’t solely in the injurious habits, but that academics do them just because they can, not because they are obliged to.
Academic culture has resorted to focussing more on the aesthetic part of the trend, and has slowly began to neglect the Academic division. And it isn’t as if the idealistic, harmful customs can be avoided, because that is what makes up the “Dark” part of the academia.
What started as a way of encouraging art and beauty has slowly lost its true sense. But it’s not too late to go back.
If the purpose is to appreciate literature, why can’t one commend M.L Rio while praising Vikram Seth at the same time? Why can’t Sanskrit and Latin be learnt and cherished together? Why can’t Greek and Mughal architecture be celebrated together?
In conclusion, why can't we modify the academia in order to make it more inclusive and more accepting of cultures throughout the world? After all, it is nothing but an outlet for us to add a little magic and beauty in our lives, without losing touch with reality.
What are your opinions on Dark Academia? Leave them in the comments below!