Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
PhD in Comparative Literature, University College London (2021)
MA in Comparative Literature (Distinction), School of Oriental and African Studies University of London (2014)
BA (Hons) English Literature, The University of Warwick (2013)
This chapter examines the portrayal of the university in millennial novels, exploring its role, contemporary significance, and latent intimations. Across works such as Brandon Taylor’s Real Life, Weike Wang’s Chemistry, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, and Bunny by Mona Awad, the university plays a central role, both as setting as well as markers of identity and plot determinants. This chapter recommends a turn to the campus novel: a literary sub-genre that has long been associated with the university in fiction. Critics such as Jeffrey Williams have argued that the contemporary campus novel is no longer a standalone genre, but an amalgamation of various literary sub-genres. Existing studies have also uniformly acknowledged the genre’s decline, suggesting that perhaps the only viable future for the genre is in being fused with narratives of middle-age and workplace anxieties. However, this chapter proposes further studies into the intersection between the millennial novel and campus novel. With its consistent predilection for writing the university, it can be argued that the millennial novel is a contemporary sub-genre that has fused with the campus novel genre. Close-reading the aforementioned works by Taylor, Wang, Batuman, and Awad, this chapter finds that the university, particularly the demanding and confining environment that is the graduate school, acts as a sphere that encompasses dread and ennui – both characteristics often attributed to millennial works. The university bubble also works as a microcosm, allowing examination of millennial characters and their multitudinous encounters, interactions, and entanglements. Additionally, the university setting functions as a temporary home. This enables studies into millennial preoccupations with exile and belonging, where the university provides refuge, if only for a few short years. Interestingly, the university as proxy for home leads to both familial and romantic relationships, where complexity arises from the constant distortion of the two. By focusing on the university in the millennial novel, this chapter considers how the genre is often implicated by its relationship with juggernaut institutions – the university being one of the most prevalent and prominent. Keywords: The millennial novel; campus novel; university novel; university in fiction; higher education.
This article proposes the possibility of decolonising dark academia, through studying existing attempts at decentering the campus novel genre. Dark academia has often been criticised for its lack of diversity, with existing discourses advocating further research beyond its present Western and Eurocentric perspectives. However, there remains a methodological lacuna in approaching these suggested directions. My research calls for closer examination into the relationship between dark academia and its purported literary predecessor – the campus novel genre. Historically, the genre has been dominated by the Anglo-American tradition, resulting in marginalisation of the genre’s global development. Through methods such as inclusion of less-studied texts from diverse literary traditions and cultures, as well as tracking comparable textual examples and concepts, the campus novel is gradually transitioning beyond the dominance of the Anglo-American tradition. Similar methods can now be used to address the dilemma faced by dark academia reading lists. This will be done through close-reading texts such as Katie Zhao’s How We Fall Apart (2021), as well as analysing selected television dramas as visual texts, such as SKY Castle (2018) and Law School (2021). This paper also queries formal structures, arguing that revision of conventions is a possible methodological strategy in decolonising dark academia. Finally, this paper will assess the value of conceptualising dark academia as a dominant and static notion. Considering the many calls for its revision and diversification, this paper suggests examination of similar concepts that might exist concurrently or have even preceded dark academia, under different forms or guises. By returning to the campus novel genre, this paper contextualises dark academia and its problematics as part of existing literary traditions and timelines. Reviewing the significance of the university in fiction also considers dark academia in relation to the wider crisis of the humanities in higher education. Keywords: Dark academia; decolonising dark academia; campus novel; academic novel; college novel.
Festival Director, The Tiny Lit Fest 2021 & 2022