Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Orange is the New Bible Week, Day 3: Parallel Session papers

Leave a comment

OITNBible Poster

OITNBible Poster

In addition to papers on Orange is the New Black and the Bible #OITNBible features interdisciplinary papers on Orange is the New Black, and on the Bible and Television. These parallel sessions, to be held in the Jessop Building at the University of Sheffield, highlight a few of the numerous possibilities for studies of OITNB, and the Bible and Television.

Bible and Television

  • Transparent Jewishness Minna Shkul
  • Exploring the desert: Breaking Bad in dialogue with ecocriticism and the Pentateuch Robin Hamon
  • Biblical Vampires: Salome in TV’s True Blood Emily R. Foster-Brown

Orange is the New Black Interdisciplinary Papers

  • OITNB and Bisexual Erasure Laura C. Saunders
  • ‘A Room of One’s Own’ – Now ‘space’ is gendered and ‘owned’ in Orange is the New Black Sarah Hammond

The last remaining ticket is still available from our Eventbrite page – don’t miss your chance to come along and book it as soon as possible!

Bible and Television

Transparent Jewishness

This presentation will examine Amazon Prime TV series Transparent (2014, 2015), discussing how religious traditions, festivals, rituals and identities are represented in the series, and how it portrays contemporary Jewish communities as well as religious discourses of gender. In addition to Transparent’s echoes of Jewish life, I will also discuss Rabbi Raquel Fein, analysing events surrounding her presence in the story, characterisation of her religious and gender identity, her struggle with singledom, and how she both challenges and confirms gender stereotypes. I will also discuss changing religious presence in contemporary film and TV, examining a flexible concept of religious heritage in the Transparent, in which religion represents a space that allows for openness and life-affirming gender fluidity, rather than religious ideas that may contribute to trans* phobia.

Minna Shkul works at the University of Sheffield teaching critical study of religion, and religious traditions, and her publications examine questions of identity, social memory, and prejudice. Minna is co-director of the Hidden Perspectives project and she also runs the interdisciplinary module LGBT* Studies, which showcases Sheffield research on all things queer.

Exploring the desert: Breaking Bad in dialogue with ecocriticism and the Pentateuch

In this paper I employ ecocritical theory to discuss the depiction of the desert location of To’hajiilee in the television drama series Breaking Bad alongside the depiction of the Sinai desert in the Pentateuch. Ecocriticism has been described as the study of the relationship between text and the physical world undertaken in the spirit of environmentalist praxis; ecocriticism therefore represents a countercultural voice that stands in contrast to the prevailing anthropocentric worldview of Western culture. Employing an ecocritical reading method proposed by Glotfelty, I observe firstly that the deserts depicted in both Breaking Bad and the Pentateuch share environmental characteristics; extreme heat, aridity and scant vegetation and surface water. Secondly, that these deserts also share a notable number of narrative features; they are both liminal spaces in which significant narrative and character developments unfold and they both represent places of revelation, danger and moral ambiguity. The Indian reservation To’hajiilee is central to the narrative of Breaking Bad. This single desert location is the place where Walter first demonstrates his ability to manufacture exceptionally pure crystal meth, where Walter attempts the murder of rival criminals, where Walter secretes his immense fortune, and where a climactic standoff unfolds. These narrative developments recall the themes of revelation (Ex. 3:2; 19:1–20:21), danger (Ex. 17:8–13; Num. 20:2–5) and moral ambiguity (Ex. 17:14–16; Num. 31:1–11) associated with the Sinai desert depicted in the Pentateuch. Given that the story of the Exodus is amongst the most well-known biblical narratives in Western culture, I propose that the desert location To’hajiilee evokes the familiar physical characteristics and narrative features of the Sinai desert in the Pentateuch for the viewer, creating a tense narrative setting in which revelation, danger and moral ambiguity are anticipated.

Robin Hamon is a first year PhD student at Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS). He completed his first degree in Environmental Science at the University of Leeds, then proceeded to complete his MA in Biblical Interpretation at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Robin’s research explores the Hebrew Bible within the context of the current global environmental crisis, employing approaches from ecocriticism, new materialism and material ecocriticism.

Biblical Vampires: Salome in TV’s True Blood

What can television teach us about the bible, and how the Bible is seen today? HBO’s True Blood series (running from 2008-2014) explored the concept of what would happen if vampires were real and ‘Came out of the coffin’ into modern, Southern American, life. Whilst the series investigated many of the standard tropes regarding vampires (human/vampire love stories, the morality of vampires, the concept of the other) in the fifth season True Blood went a step forward and posed the question, ‘What religion would a vampire follow?’. By introducing the ‘Vampire Bible’, in which God creates a vampire, Lilith, in he/r image and then creates man to be food for vampires, True Blood played with concepts of creation, devotion and faith. The antagonist (or ‘big bad’) for this season was none other than Salome Agrippa, known to readers of the bible as the nameless daughter of Herodias who dances for Herod and asks for the head of John the Baptist as payment (Matt 14:3-11, Mk 6:17-29). In True Blood Salome is reborn as a devout but duplicitous vampire.

This presentation will show how Salome fits into existing vampire tropes and explain how Salome’s presence in the TV show troubles both our concepts of the Biblical and the cultural Salome.

Emily R. Foster-Brown is an MA student in Biblical Studies Research at SIIBS. She completed her BA (Hons) at the University of Sheffield, where her final year dissertation focused on how film representations of Pontius Pilate were skewed via his sexuality. Currently she is researching religion and video games, looking at the correlation between anti-Judeo-Christian themes in game narratives and the rise of representations of Jesus in female game characters. Her research interests range from game and film studies to feminist theory, gender and sexuality, eschatology, and the occult in film and television.


Orange is the New Bible interdisciplinary papers

OITNB and Bisexual Erasure

Bisexual characters are under-represented in mainstream media which is part of a broader problem with bisexual invisibility and erasure. Netflix TV series Orange is the new black (OITNB) depicts Piper Chapman sexually and romantically involved with both her male fiancé and her female ex-girlfriend. Piper’s sexuality is not defined in her own terms – but through others, principally as a lesbian. The identification of Piper as either a lesbian or, conversely, straight, remains largely unchallenged, despite her ongoing attraction to more than one gender.

In this paper I aim to critique the visibility of bisexuality and bisexual identity in the series OITNB, through looking at language and character relationships. In doing so, a picture of bisexuality OITNB is built, which demonstrates the use of bisexuality as a plot device. Piper’s bisexuality aids the binary nature of her imprisonment. Her fiancé describes “She was not a lesbian anymore. Then she has been in prison, what? A few weeks? Then bam – lesbian again”. The use of Pipers bisexuality creates a contrast between her life before and after imprisonment, and is therefore used to reinforce this binary.

In this paper I argue that the use of Pipers sexuality as a plot device, without ever critiquing the homo-hetero binary imposed upon her, erases bisexual identity and contributes towards bisexual invisibility in the media.

Laura C. Saunders is a physics PhD student studying magnetic resonance imaging in cardiac patients. Outside her main area of research she has an interest in the experiences of LGBT folks inside science (and other masculine dominated spaces) as well as the representation of bisexuality within the LGBT community.

‘A Room of One’s Own’ – Now ‘space’ is gendered and ‘owned’ in Orange is the New Black

There are distinct ‘spaces’ in Orange is the New Black, which are occupied and owned throughout the series by differing groups of both inmates and employees of Litchfield Penitentiary. This paper will focus on the ideas of ‘safe spaces’, and the ideas of ownership, for the groups who work in various parts of the prison. It will contrast these ‘female’ spaces with the ‘male’ spaces occupied by the prison staff, who, with few exceptions, identify as male. It will also discuss the ideas of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ spaces, and why inmates are reluctant to embrace outside the prison as a ‘safe space,’ due to this space being alienating and unknown. It will also discuss the idea of gender performativity, and how this affects the idea of ownership and safety of spaces within the prison.

This paper will also discuss how self-identification of gender may affect the idea of gendering space, focussing specifically on the character of Sophia Burset, who works in the beauty salon of Litchfield. It will also discuss the characters of Natalie Figueroa and Susan Fischer, both of whom inhabit the traditionally male space of Litchfield, being the executive assistant to the warden, and a prison guard respectively, and how their gender performativity affects the idea of ‘gendered spaces,’ and ownership of those spaces, within the prison.

There are distinct groups of inmates who inhabit certain spaces within Litchfield – for example, the character of Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson, who works in the prison library. ‘Taystee’ is paroled in the first series of ‘Orange is the New Black,’ but struggles to adapt to the ‘outside’ space, having spent most of her life institutionalised. She therefore violates her probation to be sent back to Litchfield, her ‘safe’ space that she has ownership of. This paper will explore how the library, as an ‘inside’ and ‘safe’ space, is owned by the inmates, and the function this space serves in terms of ownership and safety.

Sarah Hammond completed a BA (Hons) Educational Studies and English at Keele University before undertaking a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Secondary English) at Liverpool Hope University. Sarah’s research to date has concerned gender theory and feminism within contemporary literature, particularly focussing on diasporas and identity. She has combined this with her research into social class and education, focussing on the government’s new higher education funding reforms for those students who are not traditionally seen as aspirant university entrants.



Author: Hidden Perspectives

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s