• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Dark Academia is simply not achievable at the University of Edinburgh

Image of old college from the inside courtyard

Dark Academia is an aesthetic I am sure many are aware of: leather satchels, blazers, the pursuit of knowledge even if it half kills you (looking at you, Donna Tartt and ‘I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive’). Overall, Dark Academia is a very attractive depiction of a small sect of people- namely, wealthy, ‘intelligent’ Europeans. And Edinburgh University, aesthetically, falls into this vision. When you google our institution, the first images that appear are Old College and New College- beautiful buildings built for an elite group of academics to ponder the great perhaps, and also most likely discuss the merits of spitting on poor people.

And that is the sad truth of Dark Academia- that if we truly want to star in the pinterest boards I obsessed over (and admittedly still do find desirable) we need to face the reality that it would mean universities taking a step backwards in decolonising their courses and lessening (instead of widening) participation. This is because Dark Academia favours the few, not the many, and also requires a level of dedication to studying that potentially would be called addictive (and completely unattainable for someone who needs to work a job) by any sane person (again with a Secret History callout- see, Judy Poovey’s entire commentary on the classics students).

But if we also, for a moment, come away from all the actual problematic aspects of Dark Academia, the fact is: The University of Edinburgh doesn’t really fit the aesthetic, save for a few pretty buildings. The Lister Learning Centre, Appleton Tower, 40 George Square, THE MAIN LIBRARY, the entire King Buildings complex- to name a few- these buildings are UGLY. And modern, and also apparently have dodgy concrete in them. I warn you, dear reader, that if in the next few weeks you are assigned a tutorial in one of the aforementioned, don’t turn up in your vintage shop blazer and Vinted polished leather shoes. You will be left disappointed and in a brutalist hellscape.

I hate to admit that the notion of becoming a Dark Academic in the twenty first century is just unrealistic- from the fact it would actually cause damage to multiple groups of people but also, as long as brutalism (boo) sticks around, you can’t really wander around with your leather satchel thinking about Plato or if true beauty is terror. That being said, I do still love brown tones and angsty quotes about knowledge being chaos, perhaps the aesthetic can still belong on Pinterest and the occasional instagram post.

University of Edinburgh: New College” by Jorge Franganillo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.