Dr Ela Nutu




My full name is actually Liliana Mihaela Nutu Hall, and I grew up in Romania during the Communist regime. My fascination with religion started at the same time as a teenage rebellion against the political control of Ceausescu’s government. Refusing membership in the Communist Youth, I claimed I believed in God and therefore started to research the topic in order to create informed responses when questioned about it.

With a BA (Hons) in Theology from Manchester University and a PhD in Biblical Studies from Sheffield, I continue to be intrigued by the Bible. My doctoral work was interdisciplinary and focused on poststructural readings of John’s Prologue and the concept of identity in biblical, cultural and film studies. After my PhD, I held a post-doctoral research position at Sheffield, in the Centre for the Study of the Bible in the Modern World, during which I pursued my interest in the use, reception and impact of the Bible through visual culture. My current research continues to be predominantly interdisciplinary. I am particularly interested in theory, exploring different means of reading or interpreting biblical text, particularly the ways in which cultural trends affect a recycling of the Bible in terms of the creation of gender identity and ideology.

Research interests:

  • Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies
  • Critical Theory (particularly Poststructuralist, Gender, and Psychoanalytical Studies)
  • The reception, use and impact of the Bible in and through Art (particularly visual art)
  • Identity
  • Visual Criticism
  • Cultural Studies
  • The Gospels (particularly John)

Current Research

Femme Forte or Femme Fatale? Judith and Salome in the Bible and Art

Judith and Salome have played the muse to many artists through the centuries. Interestingly, while one is a righteous widow who saves her people and the other is a young princess who dances rather fetchingly, the two women have been artistically confused for one another, both depicted as femmes fatales par excellence. They both make men’s heads roll: Judith decapitates the Assyrian general Holofernes with his own sword, and Salome requests and receives John the Baptist’s decapitated head on a platter. The violence common to both narratives seems to overpower the textual differences and command the hues for the interpretative lens. As a result, Judith and Salome are mostly remembered for being fatal to men. This study pursues both Judith and Salome through their journeys from text into art and culture and investigates the gender, psychoanalytical and signification tensions that are at play within the process of representation of the two characters. What are the parameters of the femme forte? What are the parameters of the femme fatale? Are these different at all? It closely interacts with the work of women painters who chose to depict Judith (particularly during the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Mannerist periods) and asks whether the perspectives of these female interpreters are any different from those of their male contemporaries also painting Judith. Are they perhaps manifestations of feminist proclivity, examples of écriture féminine, or are these women’s voices shut inside the Language of the Father, the ‘spurious phallocentric performing theatre of a male-dominated industry’?

Selected publications


Incarnate Word, Inscribed Flesh: John’s Prologue and the Postmodern (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006).

Edited volumes

Between the Text and the Canvas: The Bible and Art in Dialogue (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007; with J. Cheryl Exum)

Contributions to edited volumes
  • 'The Vacant Girl: Bernardino Luini's Salome’, in Heidi Hornik, Ian Boxall and Roberta Dykema (Eds.), Painted Portals: The Art of Characterizing Biblibal Figures (Atlanta: SBL Press, forthcoming 2019)
  • ‘Picasso’s Salome’, in Katie Edwards (ed.), Ways of Knowing: Rethinking Biblical Literacies (T&T Clark, forthcoming)
  • ‘Blessing and Benediction in Contemporary Literature’, in Encyclopaedia of the Bible and its Reception (New York: DeGruyter, 2012).
  • ‘Reading Salomé: Caravaggio and the Gospel Narratives’, in Christopher C. Rowland and Christine E. Joynes (eds.), From the Margins II: Women of the New Testament and their Afterlives (Sheffield: Phoenix Press, 2009).
  • ‘Introduction’ and ‘Framing Judith: Whose Text, Whose Gaze, Whose Language?’, in J. Cheryl Exum and Ela Nutu (eds.), Between the Text and the Canvas: The Bible and Art in Dialogue (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007), pp. 117-44.
  • ‘The Matrix, the Bible, and the Postcommunist I’, in Fiona C. Black (ed.), Recycled Bible (Semeia Studies; Atlanta: SBL, 2006), pp. 69-86.
  • 'How Salomé Fell for the Baptist or John the Baptist as L'Homme Fatal: Artistic Interpretations of a Biblical Narrative', in Diane Apostolos-Cappadona (ed.), Biblical Reception 5 (2018), pp. 99-126
  • ‘Salomé in Text and Performance: The Bible, Wilde and Strauss’, in Biblical Reception 1 (2012), pp.
  • ‘Angels in America and Semiotic Cocktails of Sex, Bible and Politics’, in The Bible and Film, Biblical Interpretation 14.1/2 (2006), pp. 175-86.
  • ‘The Seduction of Word(s) and Flesh and the Desire of God: John’s Prologue, The Pillow Book, and Poststructuralism’, in Biblical Interpretation 11.1 (2003), pp. 79-97.

I have disseminated my research through a number of seminar and national and international conference presentations.

Other professional activities

I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture (ISRLC), and the British New Testament Society (BNTS). I serve on the steering committee of the Bible and Visual Art section of SBL.

Outside of academia, I lead the Residence Life team at Sheffield, which aims to facilitate community and respond to the welfare needs and conduct issues of over 6,000 students in University accommodation.