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Department of English Language and Literature


Chris Holcomb

Title: Professor
Director, First-Year English
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-2253
Office: HUO 304
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
English Language and Literature


PhD, University of Texas, 1995

Areas of Specialization 

    History of Rhetoric
    Stylistics and Discourse Analysis
    Humor Studies

Recently Taught Courses 

ENGL 461    The Teaching of Writing
ENGL 790    Introduction to Composition Studies
ENGL 792    Classical Rhetoric

Current Research Projects 

My current research continues to examine prose style as a medium for performance and resource for negotiating social meaning. Drawing from ancient and early modern rhetorics and from more recent developments in sociolinguistic studies of language variation, my research views style as an array of cultural repertoires that speakers draw from (and sometimes re-purpose) not only to perform (or fashion new) identities but also to orchestrate their relationships with their audiences and the immediate and broader contexts they both inhabit. In pursuit of these more general aims, I'm currently at work on a book-length study, Motives of Style, that examines the range of meanings ascribed to verbal form and the processes by (and the contexts in) which these acts of ascription occur (an article-length piece by the same title offers a preview of this project and is currently under review).

Selected Publications 

   • “Humor.” Co-authored with Heather Buzbee. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Persuasion, eds. Jeanne Fahnestock and Randy Allen Harris, Routledge, 2023, pp. 147-164.
    “A Corpus of First-Year Composition: Exploring Stylistic Complexity in Student Writing.” Co-authored with Duncan Buell. Composition and Big Data, eds. Amanda Licastro and Benjamin Miller, U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2021, pp. 35-51.
    "First-Year Composition as 'Big Data': Examining Student Writing at Scale." Co-authored with Duncan Buell. Computers and Composition 48 (2018): 49-66.
    "Teaching Style as Cultural Performance." Co-authored with M. Jimmie Killingsworth. The Centrality of Style. Mike Duncan and Star Medzerian Vanguri, eds. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2013, pp. 119-34.
    Understand Language Through Humor (co-authored with Stanley Dubinky). Cambridge University Press, 2011.
    Performing Prose: The Study and Practice of Style in Composition (co-authored with M. Jimmie Killingsworth). Southern University Press, 2010.
    "'Anyone Can Be President': Figures of Speech, Cultural Forms, and Performance." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 37.1 (2007): 71-96.
    "Performative Stylistics and the Question of Academic Prose." Rhetoric Review 24.2 (2005): 188-206.
    "'The Crown of All Our Study': Improvisation in Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 31 (2001): 53-72.
    Mirth Making: The Rhetorical Discourse on Jesting in Early Modern England. University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.