Three english students studying together in a classroom.

English, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in English has been offered at USD since 1994. Professors work intensively with graduate students on their writing and scholarship, successfully preparing students to present and publish their work.

Be part of a vibrant literary community

Our doctoral program offers classes in British and American literature from Shakespeare to the postmodern novel and in creative writing. Small in size, we offer students an opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors. In addition to classes that broaden your knowledge across a range of literary periods and creative writing genres, the program enables you to construct your own plan of study to reflect your interests as you prepare for your written and oral exams. The dissertation offers the opportunity to design and execute a scholarly project that enables you to become an expert in your own area of interest. Our program accommodates part-time as well as full-time students with graduate seminars that meet once a week in the late afternoon or evening to allow students with work or family responsibilities to attend. Working closely with your chair and members of your committee, you receive graduate-level instruction and professional development skills suitable for pursuing professional opportunities in post-secondary teaching, editing, and writing.

Degrees & Offerings

English: Literary Studies: Creative Writing (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

One of only a few in the country, our program offers students graduate-level workshops with professional writers in multiple genres. You develop multi-genre fluency in your own work, but also build pedagogical skills and credentials in the creative writing classroom. Graduate-level workshops in creative writing offer feedback on your work that addresses craft and technique. You will also read broadly in the “state of the art” and engage in current conversations about aesthetic and historical contexts, narrative theory, poetics, and critical theory. You also take literature seminars in British, American, and World literature to build your knowledge of literary history. You will construct your own plan of study that reflects your individual critical interests as you prepare for qualifying exams, which will credential you to teach literature courses at the college level. If you receive a funded Graduate Teaching Assistantship, you will establish and build your pedagogical skills by teaching a wide range of courses, including introductory courses in creative writing. In addition to time and mentorship, the program offers numerous professional development opportunities in the form of publishing courses, job application workshops, and editorial/literary organization experience with The Vermillion Literary Project, South Dakota Review, and Astrophil Press.

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English: Literary Studies: Critical (Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Our strong, dynamic program offers students challenging graduate seminars on British, American, and World literatures with a rigorous grounding in historical, theoretical, and philosophical frameworks. Students work closely with faculty members who publish in areas such as environmental humanities; Western American literature; British modernism; cold war and conspiracy theory literature; Shakespeare and early modern drama; American Transcendentalism; and British Romanticism. You will construct your own plan of study that reflects your literary and critical interests when you prepare for your qualifying exams. If you receive a funded Graduate Teaching Assistantship, you will teach a variety of courses that develop your pedagogy and establish credentials for teaching in the academic world. Faculty mentorship extends beyond the classroom with professionalization workshops that help students navigate the job market, publishing, conferences, and job materials. You can also take advantage of other kinds of professional development opportunities in publishing.

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Program Details





Graduate Admissions

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.


As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

The experience that you gain in the teaching assistant program offers significant benefits if you are pursuing a career in education, business, or other fields involving leadership or public speaking. Teaching assistants receive a stipend appropriate to the low-cost of living in Vermillion and a reduction in tuition. Assistantships are awarded for a full academic year. Applicants who meet the priority Ph.D. application deadline are automatically considered for a Graduate Teaching Assistant Position.

An English student smiling holding a book.

Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and are renewable for a total of four years, with a stipend and a significant reduction in tuition. Beginning Ph.D. teaching assistants enroll for credit in the department's teaching practicum, which provides essential training and support for teachers new to USD. Most teaching assistants teach two sections of an introductory writing or literature course each semester.

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The USD Department of English sponsors two periodicals and a press. South Dakota Review publishes both critical and creative work for a national audience. The Vermillion Literary Project, our student organization, produces an annual literary journal and organizes student contests, local readings, and events. As a graduate student, you have the opportunity to judge contests, read creative work, moderate events and mentor undergraduate students. Astrophil Press publishes books that explore the possibilities of language, form and genre. These departmental connections provide you with valuable experiences in publishing. 

You also have opportunities to present your work to meet scholars and creative writers. The biannual writers and scholars conference features writers such as Ellen Forney and Percival Everett. Faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars and creative writers present their work at our Colloquium Series. We have hosted nationally recognized scholars, such as Tim Brennan (Minnesota), Patricia A. Matthew (Montclair) and Joel Pace (Wisconsin-Eau Claire). Visiting scholars give public lectures on campus, hold pedagogy workshops and meet informally with graduate students in English. Creative writers from around the country regularly read their work on campus.

At USD, graduate students explore innovative areas of interest, actively pursue their own research, and present at local and national conferences. Each spring, USD runs IDEAFest, a student conference where you can share your work with faculty, colleagues, and guests. USD also has other presentation opportunities, such as the biannual Women and Gender Studies Research Conference among others. The Department of English also provides travel funds to students who travel to regional or national conferences to present. Additional research and grant opportunities include:

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®)

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition provides the opportunity to communicate the significance and impact of your research project in just three minutes.

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Grad Research and Creative Scholarship Grants

The Graduate School assists with the funding of research and creative activity projects through grant opportunities throughout the year. Grants are awarded through a competitive application process conducted by the Graduate Council.

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USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of English. You may be interested in the Vermillion Literary Project or Alpha Mu Phi to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests.

Alpha Mu Phi 

Alpha Mu Phi is USD's local Sigma Tau Delta chapter. This organization's central purpose is to confer distinction upon students of the English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. Sigma Tau Delta also recognizes the accomplishments of professional writers who have contributed to the fields of language and literature.

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Vermillion Literary Project 

The Vermillion Literary Project is an award-winning student organization that publishes a literary magazine and promotes all sorts of literary events, for both the university community and the general public.

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Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

Join your fellow graduate and professional students at USD. We aim to build a sense of community between graduate and professional students. Build your resume, network with others and gain experience and the unique opportunity to represent the interests of graduate students to the greater campus and community.

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explore Our Program

The faculty and students in the Department of English are dedicated to producing knowledge and creative work that enriches lives inside and outside of academia.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know your professors in the Department of English. The USD English faculty are award-winning, engaged researchers and creative scholars working within a supportive department community dedicated to providing students with diverse learning opportunities.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Darlene Farabee

Darlene Farabee



16th & 17th C British Literature
Bio Image for Faculty Member duncan barlow

duncan barlow



Fiction Writing, Horror Literature, Publishing
Bio Image for Faculty Member Prentiss Clark

Prentiss Clark

Associate Professor


American Literature
pete dexter smiling.

Pete Dexter

Writer in Residence
Bio Image for Faculty Member John Dudley

John Dudley

Dean-Col of A&S


American Literature
Literary Naturalism
Bio Image for Faculty Member Paul Formisano

Paul Formisano

Director of Writing


Environmental Humanities/Composition
Regional Lit.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Kenneth Green

Kenneth Green



Composition Theory
Grant Writing
English Grammar
Bio Image for Faculty Member Benjamin Hagen

Benjamin Hagen

Associate Professor


Modernist fiction/poetry
Literary criticism/theory
Bio Image for Faculty Member Leah McCormack

Leah McCormack

Assistant Professor


Creative Writing (Fiction & Nonfiction)
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lisa Ann Robertson

Lisa Ann Robertson

Associate Professor


18th & 19th C British Literature, Science, Culture
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lee Roripaugh

Lee Roripaugh

Editor-South Dakota Review, Professor


Creative Writing (Poetry, CNF, Fiction)
Bio Image for Faculty Member Skip Willman

Skip Willman

Associate Professor


Contemporary Literature
Critical Theory
An English student reading the South Dakota Law Review.

Work on Active Publishing Projects

Our graduate program offers a wide variety of opportunities beyond coursework, including professionalization workshops, visiting writers and scholars, and English Department publications. For example, our graduate students gain valuable experience by:


  • Editing South Dakota Review
  • Organizing and leading events for Vermillion Literary Project
  • Editing Red Coyote
  • Learning the nuts and bolts of the publishing world by working with Astrophil Press
  • Helping others become stronger writers through consultant positions in the University Writing Center

Alumni Success Story

Julie Boutwell-Peterson smiling.
I am currently a lecturer in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky. My literature and creative writing classes gave me a strong foundation in these fields, and I find myself employing teaching techniques in my classes at UK that I learned from the modeling of USD English faculty.

Julie Boutwell-Peterson

Ph.D., English Literature (Creative Track) '22
Lecturer, Lewis Honors College, University of Kentucky


Surprisingly Affordable

Whether you’ve recently completed your undergraduate degree, or you want to kick your career up a notch, graduate school is the next logical step. The good news is there is funding for both online and on-campus students to get you through your program. 

Graduate Tuition & Costs

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Graduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees.

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.

Graduate Assistantships

USD offers opportunities for grad students to earn a reduced tuition rate in exchange for their teaching, research and service efforts to the university.


Departments & Facilities

Our faculty are experts in their fields, bringing practical experience in writing, communication and inspirational thinking.
Carson Sehr outside holding Vermillion Literary Project books


Investigate and gain insight into how we understand ourselves and communicate through stories, poetry and other narratives. Cultivate your ability to read and write and think about complex issues with the Department of English.

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