“Dark Academia” has pretty much taken over our social media feeds. And in some ways, we’re totally here for it.
Academia with a bit of the gothic swirled in? Nights locked in libraries while thunderstorms rage? Falling head over heels for a book? Velvet and old paper and maybe a ghost or two?
In internet terms: “it me.” Or, “it us,” if we’re being precise.
We should love this, right?
And mostly, we really do. But the thing is, there’s also quite a bit about it that we don’t love.
For one thing, we rebel hard at the word “dark” here – it’s unspecific, hard to define, and has historically been used as a way to downgrade whole groups of people. We long for the day we find a really good substitute. (For the long version of why this usage of this word kind of sucks, scroll down to the bottom of this post for a footnote lifted out of Brittany’s dissertation on Gothic fairy tales.1)
For another thing, a lot of the stuff that comes up alongside the academia part is presented as painfully rich and exclusively white. Which, frankly, is often what academia is like, but it’s not the version of academia that we want to re-create at Carterhaugh. We love the romanticization of studying literature… but we hate the idea that the only Romantic way to get there is through getting (or mimicking the trappings of) a fancy degree. It’s all so Eurocentric, so erasing.
And honestly, it lacks imagination.
Also, if we see one more room full of Greek statues or a haughty white boy in creased shorts and a sweater glaring we’re going to scream. Academia is so much more than smug bros sitting around quoting Titus Andronicus because they think it makes them sound sophisticated and mysterious. (Even if Shakespeare is indeed deeply awesome.)
(Real talk: Sara, who is never on Instagram, asked Brittany if pictures featuring “haughty white boys in creased shorts and sweaters glaring” are actually being tagged with “Dark Academia,” because she didn’t really believe that people were doing that. At which point, Brittany inundated her with copious proof, so now we’re both screaming.)
The ever-awesome Lindsey, however, recently made a WONDERFUL discovery. Apparently there are all these OFF SHOOTS of “dark academia”… and those include WITCHY academia and FAIRY academia.
Just read this:
“Witchy Academia is an aesthetic that revolves around folklore, the pursuit of reading, writing, and casting spells, and a general passion for potion making and spell casting […] Said Academia’s research specifies in witchcraft.”
*Victory cackle* Much MUCH better! We get rid of the word “dark” and still get the gothic feel, we expand what academia can be to focus on actual research… the fun kind. Yes!!
This, of course, prompted us to go one step further and muse about what witch-faerie academia would look like. Because that’s US, right? If you’ve been around here long enough you’re well aware that we embrace both sides of the coin, witches and fairies, BUT ALSO that we’re far more gothic than twee – we like our fairies with a bit of bite. So witchy, fairy, AND academics? Yeah, we’re 100% there for that. Here’s how we see it –
To celebrate the discovery, we made a playlist. Because obviously.
And then we made a 100% instrumental playlist (for those long research nights, of course!)
And here are five things per category that we think rep the brand pretty well –
- Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
- The Night and Nothing Series by Katherine Harbour
- Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (okay, not EXACTLY witches or fairies, but close enough!)
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- Carnival Row
- Penny Dreadful
- Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast
- Mary Shelley
BONUS: Little Witch Academia!!
- Black black black
- Long skirts
- Velvet blazers
- Long necklaces
- Big earrings
- Antique books
- Cat Imagery
- Broken mirrors
- Pressed flowers
- The Moon
So what do you think? Are you on board with our witch-faerie academia aesthetic, or do you have one of your own? Tell us all about it in the comments!
1 FOOTNOTE OF DARKNESS: “I have significant problems with the use of the word “dark” to describe what I view as the inherent Gothic aesthetic in fairy tales and fairy legends. As Angela Bourke points out, “'[d]ark’ was of course a favorite adjective of colonial discourse, simultaneously suggesting ignorance, superstition, crime, and the skin color of African and Asian peoples, as well as the growing contrast between town and country as streets were lighted first by gaslight and then by electricity” (Bourke, “Reading” 560). I have avoided this word throughout this dissertation, but use it here, in quotation marks, because it seems to be the word of choice in contemporary discussion of modern fairy tale and/or fairy legend adaptations that lean heavily on Gothic aesthetics. This is, of course, yet another reason why more scholarship must be done regarding what precisely these adaptations are tapping into.” Or, in non-academic speak: we’re not trying to suggest that we should all purge the word “dark” from our vocabularies, just that it would be great if we were all a bit more thoughtful about how we choose to use it. It’s about saying what we mean more precisely and, when we mean edgy or anti-twee or grim(m) or whatever, finding other ways to express that that aren’t tied up in colonialist thinking that equates dark with bad or deviant. Things can be dark when there’s no light (i.e. a “dark wood”), but maybe let’s try to find other words when we mean bad or edgy.