Dark Academia: Definitions, Theories, and Prospects

Due Date: 04-01-2022

We seek essays and papers for an edited collection that engages the concept of dark academia. At the center of the dark academic sensibility lies a paradox: though dark academia enjoys the cosmetic trappings of the pursuit of higher knowledge, it is at its core a celebration of the university as a place of occultation and performativity. The dark academic’s taste for mystery, history, and a distinctly Anglophone, Romantico-modernist canon—coupled with an equally distinct early-twentieth-century sartorial and lifestyle model—runs inevitably into exclusivity, elitism, and reactionary nostalgia. Indeed, the case can be made that these very elements are in fact constitutive of dark academia, as such.

Across social media, dark academia is frequently invoked as a community-building common interest for self-proclaimed oddballs or introverts who love learning—a characterization that would seem to put it in direct tension with its actual content. What can we make of this tension? Is dark academia inherently, irredeemably reactionary? In its original, social media incarnation—running as it often does to showing off outfits of the day, retro accessories, beautiful architecture, and carefully curated playlists—does it become, simply, a consumerist phenomenon? Or can we use it to think radically? If radical, does it become something other than dark academia? Whither light, gray, and chromatic modes?

What might dark academia—and its current popularity—tell us about the contemporary moment of noisy, perhaps diversionary, cultural warfare over the university and education more generally: “wokeness,” the “fearless pursuit of truth,” the sophistic invocation of “reason” in defense of the unreasonable, and the insistence on keeping schools open in the face of a pandemic? Can it direct us back to considerations of class, resistance, hegemony, epistemology, and art as a critical practice?

We are particularly interested in definitions, conceptualizations, delimitations, and troublings of the idea of dark academia as both an aesthetico-political project and a narrative genre. We are interested, too, in cultural and media critique and in writing on all forms of art and literature, including both art and literature associated with dark academic aesthetic taste and art and literature that narrativizes or thematizes the dark academic. Send a 250–350-word proposal and a short biographical statement to both editors, Cody Jones ( and Nell Pach ( by 1 April 2022. Accepted proposals will be notified by 1 May, and drafts will be due by 1 September. Feel free to reach out with questions or proposal ideas. For more information, visit