Dark Academia

Dark Academia

Dark Academia explores this thriving genre which combines the Gothic, schooldays stories, mystery, and speculative fiction.

DURATION: 12 weeks
ID: LITE 5301

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.


Amy H. Sturgis
Visiting Lecturer
Dr. Sara Brown
Sara Brown
Faculty Representative to the Board; Language and Literature Department Chair; M.A. Thesis Coordinator; Lecturer; Preceptor
Jessica O’Brien

Child of the Gothic, cousin of the schooldays story, and frequent collaborator with the fantasy, science fiction, and mystery genres, Dark Academia gained widespread attention with the bestselling (mainstream) The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992) and award-winning (fantasy) Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand (1994), but its roots reach back deeply into nineteenth-century speculative fiction, revealing fascinations with scholar/student characters who pursued ancient knowledge, clandestine research, and taboo experiments. Schooldays stories also portrayed the campus as a kind of isolated pressure cooker, intensifying the larger political, social, and even psychological forces acting on those who survived – or failed to survive – their time as students or professors. By the mid-twentieth century, both real and imagined campus mysteries informed key works such as Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman (1951) and Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967). Dark Academia also expanded its reach over time to influence film and television, fashion and aesthetics.

In the twenty-first century, and especially since 2017, Dark Academia has exploded as a thriving field producing multiple mainstream and young-adult award winners and bestsellers. Diverse writers use tropes of Dark Academia such as secret societies, unsolved mysteries, and outsider points of view to speak to current issues of exclusivity, injustice, and abuse of power. Contemporary Dark Academia storytellers blend genres and blur categories; for example, the award-winning (fantasy) Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (2020) brings both European Arthurian lore and African rootcraft magic together in a story that investigates the history behind and the present-day realities surrounding the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Regardless of genre(s) or settings, Dark Academia tales offer critiques with immediate relevance and lasting meaning.

Libraries hold secrets as well as books. Join Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she peeks into the shadows and hidden passageways of the hallowed halls of Dark Academia.

Weekly Schedule

This live course will include two 90-minute lecture and one 1-hour discussion sessions per week as assigned (4 hours total weekly). Remember to indicate your availability and time zone on the Goldberry registration system.

Course Schedule

Coming soon!

Required Texts

Coming soon!

Course History

This Course has been offered in the following semesters.

Dark Academia
Fall 2022Dr. Sara Brown & Jessica O'Brien