Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
In This Section

Peake Studies

2 Issues per year

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
In This Section

The Grotesque In ‘Danse Macabre’

Nahid Shahbazi Moghadam
  • English Department at Semnan University (Iran)
Published Online: 2014-04-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/peakest-2014-0002


The grotesque is the territory where reality and fantasy are intrinsically interwoven. In Mervyn Peake’s short story, ‘Danse Macabre’, the weird play of crossing the boundaries between life and death is enhanced by objects (here, clothes) developing a life of their own. The matter-of-fact tone of narration lulls the reader’s mounting anxiety, while maintaining a contradictory sense of repulsion and attraction as the story line proceeds. Objects taking on independent life and the fusion of organic and inorganic (characteristic motifs of the grotesque according to Kayser) are the two main elements in this tale, in which the clothes provide a most weird image of death.

Keywords: grotesque; fantastic; Wolfgang Kayser; Mervyn Peake; ‘Danse Macabre’


  • Chao, Shun-Liang. Rethinking the Concept of the Grotesque: Crashaw, Baudelaire, Magritte. Studies in Comparative Literature No. 22. Oxford: Legenda, 2010.

  • Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion.

  • Cosimo, 2009. Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Methuen, 1981.

  • Kayser, Wolfgang. The Grotesque in Art and Literature. Trans. Ulrich Weisstein. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1963.

  • Kuryluk, Ewa. Salome and Judas in the Cave of Sex. Evanston: Northwestern U P, 1987.

  • Manlove, C.N. Modern Fantasy: Five Studies. London & New York: C U P, 1975.

  • Meindl, Dieter. American Fiction and the Metaphysics of the Grotesque. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1996.

  • Mills, Alice. Stuckness in the Fiction of Mervyn Peake. Costerus New Series 157. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi, 2005.

  • Osterfeld Li, Michelle. Ambiguous Bodies: Reading the Grotesque in Japanese Setsuwa Tales. Stanford: Stanford U P, 2009.

  • Peake, Sebastian, ed. Boy in Darkness and Other Stories. London: Peter Owen, 2007.

  • Ruskin, John. ‘Grotesque Renaissance.’ The Stones of Venice. Vol. III. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1875. 112-65.

  • Winnington, G. Peter. The Voice of the Heart: The Working of Mervyn Peake’s Imagination. Liverpool: Liverpool U P, 2006.

  • Wintle, Justin, ed. Makers of Modern Culture. Vol. I. London: Routledge, 2001.

About the article

Published Online: 2014-04-25

Published in Print: 2014-04-01

Citation Information: Peake Studies, ISSN (Online) 1013-1191, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/peakest-2014-0002. Export Citation

© by Nahid Shahbazi Moghadam . This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in