Hi there! My name is Alex and I'm currently undertaking my Creative Writing PhD at the University of Lincoln. I'm a big fan of lots of streaming services, books, and am a published poet! I aspire to be a multi-genre,…
The literary sub-genre of dark academia is characterised by several themes: academic study, the gothic aesthetic, and a love of classic kinds of literature, mythologies, and psychologies. This sub-genre has become more and more popular thanks to the different literary communities online on different social medias, particularly on Booktok and Bookstagram. What I personally love about it, is how it encourages open conversations and has increased so many people’s passions for learning, which is why I wanted to recommend some of my favourite dark academia reads to you!
This book is the first novel written by Charlotte Brontë, but it was only published after she passed away with the permission of her widow. The story details the journey of a young man who escapes the abusive employ of his brother and ends up in a teaching position in Belgium. So, if you’re interested in autumnal Europe, literary references, academic debate, poetics, female empowerment and the gothic then you should definitely give it a read, particularly if you’re a fan of Charlotte’s better know works like Jane Eyre – the Wordsworth Classics edition is especially gorgeous!
The Picture of Dorian Gray
This novel is one of the truly iconic classics, written by Oscar Wilde, with themes delving into ideas of the romantic, gothic and tragic instead of academic. However, with Oscar Wilde being one of the fathers of the aesthetic movement, his novel has become one which inspires intellectual study from those who enjoy living the dark academia experience. The character of Dorian experiences life through a series of events which challenge societal norms and morals, culminating into a psychologically thrilling tragedy that is a truly captivating read. This is without a doubt one of the literary works that inspired the inception of dark academia, so you should definitely give it a go!
The Atlas Six
This novel by Olivie Blake has taken dark academia enthusiasts by storm, with its plot and aesthetics reflecting everything essential to the sub-genre. Its plot revolves around the process of initiation into the Alexandrian Society, a secret organisation which conceals, protects and makes use of the elite knowledge that resided in the Library of Alexandria. Only those with special fantastical abilities can be considered, and we follow a group of six as they discover hidden knowledge, dangers, and intense secrets about not only society but each other too. Its immediate sequel (The Atlas Paradox) is also available, and the third instalment (The Atlas Complex) is forthcoming it’s definitely a universe I would recommend getting into.
The Secret History
This 1993 novel by Donna Tartt marries murder, secrecy, and all the elements and criticisms of elitist academia. Through the eyes of Richard Papen, we are introduced to a select group of classics students at an elite university, who are encouraged to delve into new ways of thinking as they traverse the foundations of classic psychologies, literature, and most importantly questions on morality. As they work on and on in this fashion they find themselves devolving into someone far darker, but when reading it you may get the sense that not all is as it seems. If you want your literary mind challenged with countless references, ideologies and hidden layers of subtext, then this is definitely the book for you!
So, since World Book Day is fast approaching (this year falls on 2nd March), why not treat yourself to one of these books as a new read? All of them are easy to source from plenty of different outlets on the high street such as Waterstones, The Works and WHSmith’s, but you can easily acquire them online from Amazon or the National Bookstore; plus, having all these options means you can make the best price comparison possible! I genuinely recommend each of these books, and given how they either address/have inspired studies and academia, you might find that they inspire you with your university studies! So get out there, get a book, and get reading!