Dark Academia: Curating Affective History in a COVID-Era Internet Aesthetic

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Dark academia is an ‘internet aesthetic,’ an aesthetic style used in posts on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Tumblr that resonates the atmosphere of life in boarding schools, prep schools, and (Ivy League) colleges from the last decades of the nineteenth century up until the 1940s. It expresses a fascination with (neo-)gothic architecture; with tweed, lace, wool, and leather; with literature and art, and Romantic longing. Having been a main trend on social media platforms throughout the coronavirus pandemic, dark academia captures and facilitates cultural engagement in times of social isolation and closed college campuses. This article studies the dark academia aesthetic as a mnemonic curatorial practice with tendencies to counter hegemonic norms and narratives. Focusing on the affective dimensions of dark academia, this article argues that the aim of this internet aesthetic is to annul historical distance by capturing a mood and atmosphere associated with early twentieth-century campuses through the means of curated social media representations. This de-historicization allows for the renegotiation of values, like inscribing queerness – associated with secret queer romantics at gender-divided schools – into its representational language, without having to reassert historical gender binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Public History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2022

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© 2022 the author(s), published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston 2022.


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