“Dark Academia”

This is a site I still check from time to time, because he once had some interesting long-form discussions of past cultural trends (see especially the categories “cocooning” and “over-parenting”). These days it’s all about creeping on lesbians and Leftist Twitter girls — yeah, I know, lots of overlap on those Venn diagrams — but I still occasionally learn stuff. For instance, there’s a thing called “dark academia.” Wikipedia says:

Dark academia is a TikTok and Tumblr aesthetic and subculture

[n.b. “Tumblr” appears a social media site that caters exclusively to Borderlines, while “TikTok” is its dumber, autistic cousin].

centered around higher education, writing/poetry, the arts, and classic Greek and Gothic architecture. The subculture is associated with ancient art, classic literature, and mythology. The increased popularity of dark academia has been credited to the shutdown of schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic….

What’s that old Internet meme? “Millennial discovers”? In this case, it’s “Millennial discovers English majors.”

The fashion of the 1930s and 1940s features prominently in the dark academia aesthetic, especially clothing items worn by students at Oxbridge, Ivy League schools, and prep schools of that period. Some of the articles of clothing most associated with the aesthetic are cardigans, blazers, dress shirts, plaid skirts, Oxford shoes, and clothing made of houndstooth and tweed, its color palette consisting mainly of black, cold white, beige, brown, dark green, and occasionally navy blue…

Also, “Millennial discovers hipsters.” This “dark academia” thing appears to be just another tedious iteration of those human toothaches, the scenesters. Oxfords-and-cardigans is a better look than pencil mustaches and those stupid longshoreman’s caps, but it’s still the same old same old. The only point of this entry, other than my brief hope that “dark academia” meant “a few intrepid souls in the academy actually acknowledging the results of the human sciences,” is this bit:

Dark academia has been observed to be an affordable aesthetic to cultivate, especially in comparison to cottagecore. One writer noted that while a cottagecore lifestyle requires a home in the country and leisure time for crafting, “the simple act of putting on a blazer and reading Dostoevsky is far more doable.”

So instead of pretending to be 19th century housewives, minus the dysentery and seventeen hours of backbreaking labor per day, kids into “dark academia” pretend to be English majors, minus nothing.

The thing I hate most about Generation Selfie is their utter pointlessness. Look, kids: I’ve sat around in my share of blazers, pretending to read my share of heavy existential novels. The difference is, I was doing it to get laid. It didn’t work too often, but that’s beside the point. You turds can’t even manage anything so gauche as acknowledging your soy-enfeebled libidos. Display-for-display’s-sake, that’s all y’all do….

Or, as the Internet might’ve put it a few years ago, Millennial discovers the Decadents. With the caveats that A Rebours was at least somewhat interesting for the first fifty pages, Wilde made some genuinely funny cracks, Aubrey Beardsley’s art is at least distinctive, and oh yeah, even those fags actually did stuff. But other than that…

Can we get a do-over on this entire stupid century?

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14 thoughts on ““Dark Academia”

  1. Publius

    Oscar Wilde would have loved Tumblr, then hated it, then written a SubStack on why he hated it AND why he spent so much time on it, right before discovering party drugs.

  2. Geo. Orwell

    “Can we get a do-over on this entire stupid century?”

    As a kid, fifty years ago, I still held a naive hope the 21st century would look something like “2001: A Space Odyssey.” There was a scene where someone places a video phone call from a space station in orbit, and the mild joke after the short call ended was a screen showing the price of the call, $1.70. In 1968, a phone call was ten cents, so that was intended as a bit of future sticker shock.

    How different the 21st century has actually been. Now you can make video conference calls in HD, lasting hours, for no upfront cost. But instead of calling while enroute to a city on the moon, you’re likely to be spending those hours in your bedroom, wearing pajama bottoms and an Oxford dress shirt, discussing delivery dates for shipments of Disney branded surgical masks, or staffing for the outreach initiative that corporate is funding for gay pride week. Unless you are taking part in the monthly online white privilege seminar designed to raise awareness of your awareness.

    Sort of makes you wonder if it was really worth it for the Monolith to visit the solar system and mess with the apes. What a stupid time to be alive.

  3. Frip

    I was wondering. Since our backs our against the wall politically. And surely eveything has been said on our side politically. And said extremelely well, on sites like this one. That maybe it’s time to talk about how best to keep one’s sanity. That matters right? The side that stays the sainest wins? Or the side that goes the craziest wins? How does one even spell sainest. I figure most of us are in our early 50’s and so have parents who are clinically losing their minds. As apposed to us, who are only losing our minds in a pussified, metaphorical manner. Still there’s a lot to try and keep under control (which is the essence of the stress that brings insanity). We have to cope with the messed up politics. Cope with losing. How to deal with the crazies on our side? How are we going to keep it together? As a group and as individuals. I don’t need an answer. This is just one of those posts I won’t remember tomorrow so who cares.

  4. ganderson

    The “ posing in an attempt to get laid” for me revolved around foreign movies, mostly French ones, although I wasn’t above throwing a Herzog, Bergman, Bunel, etc into the mix. This strategy was largely ineffective re my sex life, but I did develop an appreciation for foreign films, particularly Truffaut and Fellini. I think my lack of success romantically speaking, can be traced to when I’d say things like “ Yes, Mary, I’d love to go see ‘Jules et Jim’ with you; unfortunately the Gopher hockey team is playing Wisconsin that night…”

    1. Severian Post author

      Yeah, as it turns out, “poseur” is a bit you’ve really got to commit to. I’d submarine myself in a similar fashion: “Yeah, I know this heavy French novel supposedly says something profound about existential ennui, but I can’t make heads or tails of it. It’s pretentious horseshit.”

      I didn’t do very good in my English Lit classes, either.

  5. ganderson

    And- Sev, just in case you’re interested, here’s the Readers’ Digest version of my post on the Strokes that got swallowed up, perhaps to be read by some alien in a thousand years:

    The prep school that the Strokes went to was a day school, as were most of the NYC preps, and not one of the more prestigious ones, neither Dalton (hee hee) nor Trinity. I taught Fab in 8th grade- he was a smart, likable kid- his bandmates transferred in in 9th grade, so I was gone by then. I also taught Fiona Apple and Jonah Goldberg- I know what many in “our thing” think about Jonah, but, I have a soft spot for him. The kids at the school were insanely rich, for the most part, (except for the hoops players) spoiled , but nice kids on the whole.

    Anyway, I learned to teach and to deal with high school age kids there- and for a youngish man living the New York experience on the edge of the wealthy elite was pretty cool, even if was at the height of the Dinkins terror. When my friends from MN came to visit I became “Mr. NYC”. A pose, of course but….

    And… It was there, in the late 80s /early 90s I began my journey from “practically a commie” to right wing bastard.

    1. Severian Post author

      I had no idea how the NYC private school ecosystem works.

      I liked Goldberg back in the 1990s, probably because he came off like a lot of my friends and I did. That is, not really “political” — in my 20s, I thought “political” meant either “reading Marx in the original Greek” or “have very strong opinions about the placement of the commas in the tax code.” His attitude seemed to be, “c’mon, gang, we all know that stuff the professors said on campus is just baloney, right?”

      Then he started living the lifestyle, and is now just a con artist.

      I also kinda liked Fiona Apple back in the 1990s, though she and Tori Amos kicked off the “instant cred by claiming to have been raped” school of female pop stardom. Yes, just as young, naive me would never believe that a guy like Jonah Goldberg was just a lightweight pseudointellectual grifter, young naive me would never believe that a lady would lie about something as heinous as sexual assault just to get ahead….

      (and to be fair to the ladies in question, I haven’t dug into it that deeply, because I don’t like their music much besides their one or two radio hits, and mostly because it’s creepy to be digging around in the details of 30 year old sex crimes. Still, I am reliably informed that both cases are murkier than Barack Obama’s origin story — I’m sure the dude involved was being less than a perfect gentleman, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to vouch).

      1. ganderson

        I suspect you are correct about Tori Amos and Fiona- and to dial up the creep factor Fiona was very attractive- in a sort of unusual way, but very nice. I taught her in the school’s alternative section- really weird boys and fashion models who couldn’t go to regular school. I’m guessing Fiona’s upbringing was as normal as an Upper West Side upbringing could be. I didn’t even know she was a pop star until about 5 years after I left the school and I saw her picture in Rolling Stone.

        Overall my NY private school experience was good for me-I learned a lot, and I still get invited to reunions, so I must have done something right!

  6. toastedposts

    Rats. Your title had me hoping there was some secret subculture of kids actually interested in learning things. As in: “Wow, we suddenly realize just how mutilating our culture and formal education has become. This is all so fake it’s soul killing, where is the real stuff?”

    Me and three other friends *almost* had something like that going in middle school wrt math. (Our geometry teacher was actively trying to *prevent* us from learning trigonometry, because it made her feel inadequate. We nerds rebelled sort of.) We were eighth graders though, so we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

  7. Clown World

    I’ve had akinokure in my feed list for MANY years, and he is kind of weird, always going on about how attractive he is to teenage girls, and I also completely skip some of his posts, especially the music ones. I also had a guy called agnostic in there, which was also blogspot, and for some reason had them fused, I never really distinguished their posts from each other. Agnostic moved to unz.com so I don’t see his posts anymore.

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