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Religious Studies

Susanna Morrill

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

  • Copyright, Steve Hambuchen

J.R. Howard Hall

Susanna Morrill teaches courses in United States religious history. She received her doctorate in the history of religions from the University of Chicago. Her work in the recent past has focused on how early Mormon women used popular literature in order to argue for the theological importance of their roles in the home, community, and church.


Spring 2018 Courses:

RELS 102: Food and Religion in America
MWF 11:30AM - 12:30PM

Examination of the relationship between food, American religions, and American popular culture; how food is incorporated into formal religious rituals such as the Eucharist or fasting; how cooking, communal eating, and food practices are part of the more informal religious culture of religious communities. Also, consideration of whether eating and food have taken on religious meaning within American culture as a whole, using the Northwest as a focus.

Prerequisites: None.


RELS 451: Seminar: Ancient Aliens?
MWF 12:40PM - 1:40PM 

RELS-451: “Ancient Aliens”?: The Metaphysical Tradition in
American Religious History

In this seminar, we begin in the present day U.S. with a series on the History Channel called “Ancient Aliens.” This series is based on the premise that most religious, cultural, technological, and even economic developments originated in human encounters with a more advanced alien race that has visited earth periodically throughout human history. We add to this shows such as “Monster Quest” and “Paranormal State” that strive to investigate scientifically paranormal and cryptozoological phenomena. Culturally and historically, where are these shows coming from? More importantly, how do we get to a place in U.S. religious history where, at least in lived cultural religious experience, religion and science have merged to such a degree that aliens become gods who can be encountered mystically, but explained scientifically? How and why have a critical mass of Americans adjusted their religious worldviews in this way?

To begin to get at potential answers to these questions, we will make a selective survey of institutional and popular religious history in the U.S., along with some relevant theoretical works. We start in the Puritan era during which mysterious phenomena were explained through a combination of orthodox Calvinist theology and a more traditional “world of wonders” viewpoint. We investigate how these developments helped to create a metaphysical tradition in the U.S. that manifests itself in expressions as diverse as Swedenborgianism, Mormonism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, and modern-day UFO cults. Along the way, we consider Thomas Kuhn’s work on the shift to the scientific paradigm, Albanese’s work on metaphysical religion, and the larger concept of reductionism in the study of religion. While we focus on trying to answer these specific questions discussed above, we will constantly be challenging ourselves to think about how we study and understand the categories of religion and science.

Prerequisites: Any 200-level RELS course.

Restrictions: Sophomore standing required.



Professor Morrill teaches courses in United States religious history up to 1865; United States religious history, 1865-present; colonial American history; women in United States religious history; the body and health in United States religious history; and a seminar focusing on American religions. These courses reflect her interests in researching women in United States religions and, specifically, in finding women (and men) in American history by looking at non-traditional, popular sources—the places in American culture that women were able to safely create and inhabit.

Academic Credentials

Ph.D. 2002, M.A. 1993 University of Chicago

B.A. 1989 Bryn Mawr College

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Religious Studies


Susanna Morrill’s office is located in room 228 of John R. Howard Hall.


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Susanna Morrill Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Religious Studies Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 45 Portland OR 97219 USA