Seth Perry

Visiting Assistant Professor of American Religion, Department of Religious Studies

Sycamore Hall 332


Ph.D., University of Chicago 2013

Research Interests

Professional Biography

I am interested in print culture, American religious history broadly, and the creation of individual religious authority. My dissertation — “The Endless Making of Many Books: Bibles and Religious Authority in America, 1780-1850” — explores the creation of religious authority in early-national America through the form and content of the era’s printed bibles and the practices of usage they inspired.

The questions about the discursive creation of religious authority that drive my work have led me to a particular interest in Mormonism, Christian Science, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, and other American new religious movements. In these movements, it is possible for historians to attempt to reconstruct the formative stages of religious authority and, possibly, the discursive mechanisms of its creation. My recent essay, “‘Go Down into Jordan: No, Mississippi’: Mormon Nauvoo and the Rhetoric of Landscape” explores these questions in relation to early Mormonism’s use of the American landscape. Among my current projects is a study of the “scriptures” of American new religious movements, comprising a critical interrogation of that term along with a detailed look at how the form, presentation, and content of these texts related to their successful claim to “scriptural” status. Additionally, I am completing an article on nineteenth-century biblical role-playing focusing on the life of Peggy Dow (Lorenzo Dow’s first wife) and a study of an endlessly-fascinating Freewill Baptist preacher. Both of these, I believe, offer important windows onto the complexities of early-national religious subjectivity.


Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights

Selected chapters

“‘Go Down into Jordan: No, Mississippi’: Mormon Nauvoo and the Rhetoric of Landscape,” Gods of the River: Religion and Culture along the Mississippi, Michael Pasquier, ed. (Indiana University Press, 2013.


Scientology and its Discontents.” The Chronicle Review, October 2, 2011.

Frodo and Mormon Share Stage in South Park Mormon Musical,” Religion Dispatches, March 25, 2011.

A World Religion (Eventually).”, August 9, 2010.

Here be Nephites” Sightings, April 29, 2010.

Romney’s Religious Dilemma.” The Chronicle Review, February 15, 2008.

Regular contributor, “The Junto” blog,

Contributor (2012), “Peculiar People” blog,


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