Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Recapping the Festival: Lectures

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Part IV: Lectures

Your festival summaries have so far looked at Poetry, Drama and Art. This summary will focus on the diverse range of lectures that were given at the festival. Since there were so many and they were all fantastic we will look at them here in alphabetical order according to the lecturer’s first name, so as not to show any favouritism!

So, at the top of the alphabetical list we have Alan Hooker’s lecture on ‘A Man of Unclean Lips’: Isaiah, the Temple and Queer Identities, which considered divine sexuality in the Old Testament and concluded that sexuality cannot be separated from the divine. Hooker’s lecture was brilliant as it was thought provoking on a personal level as well as on an academic level.


Christopher Meredith’s lecture, Public Toilets and Gay Turtles: Notes on Sexual Cosmology, was about how our ideologies of gender and sexuality are tied to our ideologies of space (i.e. how we organise and perceive of the world around us). Discussing topics from public toilets to the cosmic turtle. This was a lecture not to be missed as was evident from the discussions which continued once the lecture was over, drifting out of the lecture room into the exhibition space.

Dr Chris Meredith

Dr Chris Meredith

CN Lester’s lecture was brilliantly unique in its format and content; covering Gender Subversion in the Religious Music of the Baroque, through classic performances as well an academic talk. This lecture examined the ways in which biblical narratives, messages and characters ware queered in the telling, through the standard subversions of Baroque oratorio and religious song. Lester’s lecture focused on castrati and travesty operatic roles, and was both fascinating and attention grabbing with something to suit all!

CN Lester

Next, we have the pleasure of Ela Nutu’s The Bible and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, which looked at Kushner’s interesting take on the appearance of an angel signifying an absence of the divine rather than the presence of the divine. This lecture was an amazing example of how the Bible, biblical stories and characters, interact with the needs and beliefs of today, through national themes, and was said to have been ‘a little piece of heaven’.

Ela Nutu Talk

Emma England’s lecture on Kinky Writings: BDSM, the Bible and Biblical Scholarship, looked at the intersections between the Bible, fandom, fantastic narratives, and female sexuality. This was a remarkable lecture in that it was stimulating whilst being exciting. England had a room full of avid listeners, who told the student ambassadors that ‘if you missed this lecture, you really missed out!’

Huge Pyper’s lecture was on Boaz’s Boyfriends, and focused on gender relations in the Hebrew Bible. One way in which this was done, was by questioning some of the assumptions made when considering the positively portrayed same sex relationship between Ruth and Niaomi and the surprisingly positive image of Boaz as the ideal husband for young Christian women. Pyper presented a wonderful example of how biblical figures are used to represent gender relations and was said to be one of the must see lectures of the day.

Hugh Pyper Talk

James Crossley’s lecture was on The Use of the Bible in Party Political Debates about Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage. The lecture room was full to bursting with people standing outside the room with the door open, spilling into the corridor and down the stairs, all hoping to witness Crossley’s lecture. While politics may sound boring, the same cannot be said for Crossley’s topically current lecture. Compliments were abundant for this lecture, yet my favourite has to be, James Crossley is DIVINE!’ whether you agree or not, the lecture Crossley gave was clearly something special.

James Smiling - Rare Shot

Maddy Oakes’s What Happened to the Rest of Leviticus? is an extended version of her Dissertation from her BA in Biblical Studies and Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. This lecture explored some of the most often citied texts used to support or reinforce homophobic views. Her lecture considered why these verses rather than others have been remembered and repeatedly used as well as looking at the absence of female-female sexual relationships in the Hebrew Bible. The high academic standard and clarity of her presentation was an unexpected delight from someone so young, both she and her lecture were praised by all with  numerous comments being made that ‘Maddy Oakes’s lecture was definitely my favourite!’ Her lecture was both interesting and engaging, and definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

Maddy Oakes

Maddy Oakes

Minna Shkul’s lecture titled ‘Born this Way’: Lady Gaga and the Bible in the Birth of the New Humanity, focused on the exploration of the music video and lyrics of Lady Gaga’s hit ‘Born This Way’. This lecture paid particular attention to how Gaga reapplies biblical ideas to promote diverse identities, equality and freedom. Shkul’s exploration of video and lyrics was both challenging and enthralling, with a particularly delighted audience member saying, ‘I learnt a lot about things I hadn’t considered before’.

Dr Minna Shkul

Dr Minna Shkul

Reubs J Walsh’s lectured on Jesus- the 4th wave Feminist of the Year 25AD. This lecture considered what scripture reveals about Jesus’s attitude towards gender. Not only was Walsh’s lecture educational and enlightening it was also captivating to hear such a sensitive and poignant topic discussed so clearly and fairly. Walsh’s expertise came across loud and clear and the talk was a pleasure to listen to.

Reubs Walsh Talk

Stuart Macwilliam’s lecture was titled, What Value might there be in a Queer response to Leo Steinberg’s ‘The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion’? The discussion of Steinberg’s work was captivating, for those who both previously new of this work and those that were completely new to it. Macwilliam’s gave a fascinating lecture, in which his expertise and interests in queer theory, masculinities and the Hebrew Bible were evident, his passion was contagious!

Stuart Macwilliam festival

Last but by no means least, is the fantastic Susannah Cornwall, who named her lecture Hidden in Plain Sight: Intersex, the Bible and Social Assent. This talk considered the importance of ‘hidden’ or unseen identities in the Bible which is of particular significance, given claims by many conservatives that the Bible endorses only typical, heterosexual and cisgendered configurations of sex, gender and sexuality. Not only did Cornwall put across her argument clearly and concisely but listening to her speak was ‘mesmerising’ notes one member of the audience. Cornwalls lecture was interesting and illuminating.


That is the end of this instalment of summaries on the lectures at the festival. If you made it to the end then well done to you! Keep an eye out for the next summary instalment which is soon to come!


Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

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