Worldbuilding Wednesday 4/5/23: Dark Acadamia (Schools)

Typical student of Columbia University, 1903

 For some reason, there aren’t as many fictional colleges around as there are cities, states, and countries. Of them, Miskatonic University, H. P. Lovecraft’s creation and the setting for many of his stories, is the best known and detailed, even having a map. (I’d call those stories Dark Academia before the term existed, even though Lovecraft wrote them as contemporary to his time.) C. S. Lewis created a Oxford stand-in called the University of Edgestow for his novel That Hideous Strength, and of course there’s Hogwarts and its more adult cousin, Brakebill University, from the Harry Potter and Magicians magic-learning school series, respectively. I’d say the time is ripe for some more, especially the Ivy League variety.

The American Ivy League schools are a group of eight of the oldest, most respected, and most elite colleges, and to graduate from them means you are truly a part of upper crust and belonging to something larger than yourself. The very names speak of Bluebloods: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth. Why were they called ivy league schools? You’d think it was from the amount of ivy climbing up the centuries-old campus buildings, but there’s another explanation:  the 19th century custom of soon-to-graduates planting ivy around a designated campus building, a ceremony that included speeches given.  The actual term “Ivy League” wasn’t used until the 1930s. The Dark Acadamia aesthetic is mostly based around these schools, with influences from Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinbourgh on the other side of the Atlantic.

Alexander Hall on Princeton University campus. Built in 1894, it’s more Romanesque than Gothic.

I’ve had to good fortune to visit several of these prestigious schools: Oxford, Yale, and Princeton; one  Christmas, I attended the Princeton Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker at Alexander Hall, above. One of my father’s most prized photographs was one of Albert Einstein in his alumni cap and robe in procession to a graduation ceremony, a year or so before he died. Whenever we drove past the campus, family members always pointed out to be his (rather modest) clapboard house, while telling me it belonged to the smartest man in the world. Fun family factoid: one of my maternal aunts, who was then employed as a nurse in NYC, gave Albert Einstein a sponge bath when he was hospitalized for some illness.

Need a college for your Dark Academia setting? Here’s a few.


Dark Academia, Colleges and Universities

Anedyne Medical School

Barvane College

College of Candier Major

College of Pounchestor

Daunton School of Business

Emerling College

Glenbury College

Grendel University

University of Kessington

King’s College of Richpike

Ludfields Medical School

Mircestor School for Business Science

Morin University

Mystington University

Pelmont Law School

Peranier University

Pildam University

University of Pontishead

Queenslocke University

University of Questwich

Saffborne College

Tellmont College

University of Thursthead

Vanderstrad University

Vineborough University

Worsett Institute of Technology

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