Welcome, students. Please take your seats. No talking. Keep your hands visible at all times.
Dark Academia is a genre of literature that is having a moment right now. It typically features an elite group of students selected out as special in some way. Something wicked, nefarious or unfortunate tends to happen. Perhaps it’s a murder, perhaps a kidnapping or blackmail. A scandal may be afoot. A foot may be severed. It’s multiple choice.
The aesthetics that go along with this trend are moody blues, brown studies, muted colors. The characters wear tweed jackets or cardigans and have wind-swept hair. There is a general proclivity for the classics and mahogany chifforobes.
For the duration of this course, we will look at a sampler of books and have lengthy, heated discussions about their place in the genre. Class participation is mandatory.
Secret History by Donna Tartt
This is the ur-text of Dark Academia. It has all the prerequisites: übersmart college students handpicked to study Latin, but then also being a bit troubled, and, oh yeah, killing someone.
The Ancient Nine by Ian Smith
What could be more elite than being invited into an exclusive club of powerful men at Harvard? How about an even more secret club within the club? As the secrets draw closer to the vest, the stakes rise higher.
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
A group of psychopaths have been given a free ride to attend John Adams University if they participate in a program that studies them. What could go wrong?
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Fantasy meets noir in this homicide investigation at a high school for magical children. Oh, the things they can do with their minds.
The Orchard by David Hopen
Ari Eden is just a kid who wants to leave his orthodox yeshiva behind and fit in with his new wealthy, secular friends. Or does he?
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
Shakespeare’s plays are the epitome of tragedy. As Richard Dreyfus defines it in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: “The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily.” So it is not entirely shocking that when seven students study Shakespeare at an elite arts college, their roles bleed out into their lives, literally.
If you like your smart murder to also be true, there’s nonfiction for you too. It doesn’t get much more brilliant than creating the OED. This book will scare you, but you’ll also learn some things.
Write a 1,000 word essay on themes within Dark Academia. Develop a thesis as to the relationship between brilliance and darkness. Please cite your sources. Those who do not fulfill all the requirements will be dragged off.
Listen to this Spotify Playlist while studying, reading, or planning your next murder.