Dr Ela Nutu

Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies



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’?