Research log: unit 50 project 2- Icons

Narrative structure:

Exposition: I will start out by explaining Peake’s childhood and lead on from their.

Rising action: The rising action will be me talking about Peake’s life and drawing links and comparisons to Peake’s books.

Climax: The climax will be when Gormenghast is released, and Peake wins the Heimann award for it.

Falling action: The falling action will be when Peake’s health takes a dire turn, and Titus continues his journey to parts unknown.

Resolution: I will resolve my article by implying that Mervyn continues his young adventuring ways through Titus.

My icon is Mervyn Peake Primary research I conducted a quick questionnaire asking people who their role model is. The answers were various and included:

  • Steven Gerrard x2
  • Keven Pieters
  • David Bowie x2
  • Mum and Nan
  • Obama
  • Pavi Simod
  • Mum and Dad
  • Molly from the saturdays
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Clint Eastwood.

I launched another questionnaire, in which I asked 5 questions to a random group of 20 people, these questions being:

1. Adults and children should be challenged by media and art. Do you:

A)  strongly agree

B) agree

C) don’t know

D) disagree

E) strongly disagree

2. Open question: Who is the best author in history?

3. Closed question: have you ever heard of Mervyn Peake?

4. Leading question: Art and culture are important. Wouldn’t you agree that genuinely beautiful art and media should be exposed to people more than popular art?

5. Ranking question: Which of these books/ book series  would you say are the most popular in order?

Gormenghast trilogy.

lord of the rings.

Harry Potter.

Paradise Lost.

The answers that I got from each question are varied and vast.

Question 1

10% of people said A, agree strongly.

40% of people said B, agree.

25% of people said C, not sure.

25% of people said D, disagree.

Nobody said option E, strongly disaagree.

Question 2

55% of people I asked this question said J.R.R.Tolkien.

20% of people said that J.K.Rowling.

10% of people said Jane Austin

10% of people said C.S.Lewis.

5% of people said James Paterson.

Question 3

95% of people said they didn’t know who Mervyn Peake was while only 5% percent said they did know who he was- but only through his Alice in wonderland illustrations.

Question 4

65% of people said yes to the question, while 35% of people said no.

Question 5

Everyone I asked had Lord of the rings and Harry Potter in some form or order, and Paradise lost and the Gormenghast trilogy are always in the bottom half  of the ranking.

Secondary research:

This link is helpful to me because it provides me with a quick bullet point look at Mervyn Peake’s life.

“Born July 9th in the hill town of Kuling , Kiang-Hsi Province, China”

This information is helpful to me, because it gives me a point to start from, and considering the narrative structure of the gormenghast novels, it seems appropriate to start from the birth of my articles subject.

This source will be helpful to me because it goes into greater detail about Mervyn Peakes birthplace- Kuling. One thing I could draw attention is how the Kuling was favoured by missionaries, or how it became one of Chariman Mao’s homes after the rise of communism in China- maybe to add a juxtaposition to the fate of gormenghast castle itself, i.e, how gormenghast is unchanged when Titus returns home, but Kuling has changed since Mervyn’s birth.

From my first source, I can then lead on to tell my audience how Peake spent the first 12 yeears of his life living in Tientson, China. And how in 1923 he moved back to England, Wallington, Surrey.

“Moves back to England and lives at Wallington, in Surrey, where his father sets up a medical practice”

  • “1929 – Left Eltham and briefly went to study at the Croydon School of Art before enrolling at the Royal Academy in December that year.
  • 1931 – Has one of his paintings chosen for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
  • 1932 – Designs costumes used for The Insect Play
  • 1933 Following advice from one of his teachers at Eltham, decides to move to Sark in the Channel Islands where he lives for the next two years.
  • 1935 – Moves back to London having exhibited his work on several occasions with The Sark Group, at galleries in London and in Paris. Begins teaching at the Westminster School of Art.
  • 1936 – Meets Maeve Gilmore on her very first day at the art school.
  • 1937 – Marries at St James’s, Spanish Place Central London, on 1st December
  • 1938 – Has his first one-man show at the Calmann Gallery in London
  • 1939 – His first book Captain Slaughterboard is published by Country Life

This quote is helpful to me because it gives me enough information to make a quick summary of Mervyn Peakes years between the age of 18-28, I mainly want to avoid these years and get to the “meat” of my article, the Gormenghast trilogy.

This source is helpful to me because I can use to show the reader just one shred of the success that Peake experienced during the years 1929-1939, without going into a great deal of detail with it.

“His first child Sebastian is born. Begins writing Titus Groan and joins the Royal Artillery. In December Ride a Cock-Horse and other Nursery Rhymes is published”

This resource is helpful to me, because I learn that Peake starts trying his hand at writing, not to mention Peake joining the army- and possibly partaking in WW2.

“1945 – Visits Germany as war artist, commissioned by The Leader magazine and enters the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in June. Gathers ideas for a future collection of poems, and produces several drawings of the dying inmates.”

This quote is helpful to me because it gives me a greater look at some of Peake’s mindset. It’s certainly easy to see hwo the horror and oppression of the deathcamp can be compared to the oppression and darkness of Gormenghast.

This source is helpful to me because it confirms my assertion that Mervyn was heavily inspired by his post war journey through Germany.

“His going into the condemned cell just a few hours before Back was hanged certainly influenced aspects of Steerpike. It must have haunted my father,” he said”

“1946-Titus Groan is published by Eyre & Spottiswoode the manuscript having been read by Graham Greene who recommends it to the publisher who reads it over the weekend”

This quote is helpful to me because It finally allows me to clearly link the life of Mervyn Peake to the life of his books characters.

  • “1949 – Daughter Clare is born at the Le Chalet attended at the birth by Sister Kilfoyle, known to Mervyn as Sister Tinfoil. She, the nurse, is not amused.
  • 1950Gormenghast is published to very good reviews.
  • 1951 – Wins the Heinemann Prize for Literature for Gormenghast and The Glassblowers and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.”

This information is useful too me, because in the context of my articles narrative It will signal the end of my articles build up, and will signal the “climax” of my article; the 1959 publication of Titus alone.

  • “1959Titus Alone published”

This source is helpful to me because it helps me finally arrive to the falling action of my article.

“The diagnosis ranged from senile dementia (he was 45) to sleeping sickness and back to breakdown”

“A cold turned into pneumonia and Dad, the youngest resident by 35 years, hadn’t the strength to fight it. He was 57.”

These quotes will help towards writing out my final resolution. It is my ambition to link Peake’s tragic end, to Titus’ journey truly beginning.

Another resource useful to me will be the BBC documentary “bookmark: Mervyn Peake”

“Even as a young boy, Peake was unusually gifted at writing and drawing. By the age of ten he was writing and illustrating his own  missionary magazine”. 5:07-5:14

This quote is helpful to me because it will easy to tie in to the beginning of my article. It also shows my audience that Peake had a natural gift for the craft.

Another major resource for me will be Mervyn Peakes book series, the Gormenghast series. This will be helpful to me because I will be able to use exerts from the book to talk about Mervyn Peake, and how certain themes reflect on Mervyn Peakes life.

“Gormenghast”- page 1

This quote is useful too me, because it establishes the setting and tone in one word. It sets the tone of the book through its unique alien form. Gormenghast, just saying it feels strange, as if your weaving a maze of sounds, with one simple noun.

The first book covers the birth and first year of Titus’ life. The reader is often told how he is to be the seventy-seventh earl of Gormenghast- showing how long the castle has been standing and how long the traditions of the castle have been going on for. The social structure is built on almost pointless traditions, and the castle itself is immediately established as a powerful presence in it’s own right. We know that tradition is a big part of the social structure . All of the characters are incredibly opaque and drip with pure agency, each one having their own goals and motivations. However early on in the first book a maverick reveals themselves. Steerpike, whose ambition and drive leads him on a journey, in which he attempts to usurp the long established order and make himself supreme above all others. The first book is clearly one of the mannerpunk genre. A sub-genre of fantasy in which characters don’t fight with magic- or sci fi convenient tehcnologies- but instead through their own mental and physical strenghs, and conflicts arise due to the internal social structure of the characters- usually making mannerpunk stories much more morally ambiguous than say a standard sword and sorcery fantasy- such as Lord of the Rings- where morality is pretty clear.

“A freckled and frivolous cake there was
That sailed upon a pointless sea,
Or any lugubrious lake there was
In a manner emphatic and free.
How jointlessly, and how jointlessly
The frivolous cake sailed by
On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly
Threw fish to the lilac sky.

Oh, plenty and plenty of hake there was
Of a glory beyond compare,
And every conceivable make there was
Was tossed through the lilac air.

Up the smooth billows and over the crests
Of the cumbersome combers flew
The frivolous cake with a knife in the wake
Of herself and her curranty crew.
Like a swordfish grim it would bounce and skim
(This dinner knife fierce and blue) ,
And the frivolous cake was filled to the brim
With the fun of her curranty crew.

Oh, plenty and plenty of hake there was
Of a glory beyond compare –
And every conceivable make there was
Was tossed through the lilac air.

Around the shores of the Elegant Isles
Where the cat-fish bask and purr
And lick their paws with adhesive smiles
And wriggle their fins of fur,
They fly and fly ‘neath the lilac sky –
The frivolous cake, and the knife
Who winketh his glamorous indigo eye
In the wake of his future wife.

The crumbs blow free down the pointless sea
To the beat of a cakey heart
And the sensitive steel of the knife can feel
That love is a race apart
In the speed of the lingering light are blown
The crumbs to the hake above,
And the tropical air vibrates to the drone
Of a cake in the throes of love”- page 58-59.

This is the perfect example of Peake’s eccentric prose and odd way of viewing the world and basic narratives. Admittedly it’s hard to access what Peake is writing about. It shows his mad genius, and his abilities to weave his poetry into the storys narrative. Admittedly I eventually ended up looking up other peoples interpretations of the poem and found this source: Upon reading this and realising that the poem itself is forshadowing the fate of the character reading it- Fuschia. It’s a sad realization. Peake also demonstrates that his novels are were planned to every detail before he set out to pen them.

In the second book we see Titus grow from the age of seven to seventeen. He is active earl after his father perished in the first book. This is the story of Steerpike’s fall, and Titus’ growth and desire to escape his homes oppresive traditions. Titus and Steerpike are actually a great rivalry. By the climax of the 2nd book Steerpike seems to be the anti-thesis of Titus. While Steerpike seeks power and is willing t attain it at any cost, Titus has held power since his first year, Steerpike has an intrinsic knowledge of Gormenghast castle and embraces – and even uses- the traditions of the castle while at the end of the book Titus rejects his tradional role and abandons his responsibility. Peake dives into the theme of freedom vs dutyin this novel, which can be contrasted to Peake’s real life duties, of being a husband and a father, this is a story about growth and it’s written well.

“for Titus had discovered himself. The ‘Thing’, when she had died in the storm had killed his boyhood. The death of Flay had seasoned him. The death of Fuchsia had left a crater beneath his ribs. His victory  over Steerpike had given him a kind of touchstone to his own courage” page 743

The last book is incredibly different to the first two. As the title of the book “Titus alone” might suggest, Titus spends the majority of book an outcast- which is an extreme change considering his social position in the first two books. Another major change – and shock to the audience- comes from the fact that the first piece of civilization that Titus comes across is modern. This books narrative has far fewer sub plots than the previous two books. The story is very much centered on Titus and his struggles. Whereas the central character of the first two books is the castle gormenghast. The greatest enemy of Titus in the book seems to be the modern world- science. Although interestingly enough when given the chance to go back to his old life of tiresome traditions, Titus rejects the offer to return to the restraints of the past, instead opting to walk in a random direction and discover what else the world had in store for him.

“He no longer had any need for home, for he carried his Gormenghast within him. All that he sought was jostling within himself. He had grown up. What a boy had set out to seek a man had found, found by the act of living. There he stood: Titus Groan, and he turned upon his heel so that the great boulder was never seen by him ever again.”

Pictures to be used

These will be the first two images that I use. One is an image of modern day Kuling, and the other is a drawing gormenghast castle. I ill be using photshop to put the images side by side, to create a natural contrst for my audience/ readers.

These two images will also be put together- using Photoshop.

This image is of Peake’s self portrait – the only self portrait in the National Gallery of London.

This is an image of Steerpike, who will be a major talking point of the article.


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