“A Man After God’s Own Heart”: Biblical, Hegemonic and Toxic Masculinities in As Meat Loves Salt

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen


Maria McCann paints a dark picture of masculinity and its effects in her novel As Meat Loves Salt (2001). The violent Jacob Cullen struggles with his masculinity as he faces the intricacies of religion, sexuality and politics in the midst of the English Civil War where he falls in love with fellow soldier Christopher Ferris. By using R.W. Connell and James Messerschmidt’s framework for the hierarchy of masculinities, I explore masculinities on local, regional and global levels and emphasized femininity in a close reading of McCann’s novel. My aim is not only to analyse the masculinities of the novel but also to use the framework to redefine toxic masculinity in order to make it a useable concept when analysing masculinities in literature. I redefine toxic masculinity because it lacks a clear definition anchored in an established framework used to study masculinity that does not see masculinity as inherently toxic. I believe that anchoring it to Connell and Messerschmidt’s framework will make it a useable concept. Due to the novel’s relationship to the Bible, I will use masculinity studies done on David and Jesus from the Bible to compare and reveal similarities with the masculinities in the novel, how they appear on the local, regional and global levels in the novel and its effects. I draw parallels between the love story in As Meat Loves Salt to the love story of David and Jonathan in the Bible by using queer readings of David and Jonathan in order to explore how masculinity affects the relationships and how the novel uses these two love stories as a study of toxic masculinity and how it relates it to hegemonic masculinity.

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