Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Peake Studies

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The Grotesque In ‘Danse Macabre’

Nahid Shahbazi Moghadam
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. Google Scholar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the article

Published Online: 2014-04-25

Published in Print: 2014-04-01

Citation Information: Peake Studies, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 15–26, 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. BY-NC-ND 3.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in