Can an aesthetic preference form a (social) movement?

Perhaps this title is a bit confusing.

For some while now, I’ve been fascinated with the aesthetic around dark academia. A fan-made online encyclopedia describes it as “a popular academic aesthetic that revolves around classic literature, the pursuit of self-discovery, and a general passion for knowledge and learning.”

To illustrate this aesthetic, one can think about the movie Dead Poets Society and even more about the book The Secret History.

More specifically, one should imagine antique books, art pertaining to ancient Greece, boarding school-related environments, and historical university campuses.

Other associations that might help: forests and rainy weather, castles, anything that seems to awaken associations with scholarly and academic issues. Some sort of Néo-Grec style in conjunction with Neoromantic aesthetics is likely what it boils down to.

Dark academia, as the name implies, is not just linked to scholarly topics or self-expression in a positive sense; Donna Tartt’s The Secret History likely really is the quintessential work that established this whole genre, movement, preference of dark academia. Existentialism, profound experiences of grief, love, and friendship, the veneration of wisdom in all its aspects, embracing one’s Jungian shadow – all these things are paramount for understanding the allure behind dark academia.

Isn’t it peculiar that something of a proper movement has formed among young people, between the ages of 18-30 or so, that is solely based on aesthetics? It is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I find it interesting that such a group could form around the aesthetic principles of Ancient Greece and early 20th-century Oxford-style university environments.

I will write more about these aspects and my own interest in this aesthetic later on because right now, I’m getting too tired. I suppose it was time to update this blog, though.