Dr Jimmy Packham

Photograph of Dr Jimmy Packham

Department of English Literature
Associate Professor in North American Literature

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research focuses on Gothic fiction and on maritime writing, both as separate and overlapping areas of study. I have a long-standing interest in voice and utterance in literary writing, and my work on the Gothic focuses on the haunted and haunting voices that resonate within late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century American Gothic literature. I also work on the deep sea as it is depicted in a variety of forms – novels, poetry, shipboard diaries, logbooks, film – across a long historical span. I maintain a research interest in coastal spaces in Gothic fiction, and my work on maritime writing draws deeply on ecocriticism and animal studies. I teach widely across the discipline, focusing particularly on writing from the 1860s to the present.


  • BA (English Literature and History; Keele University)
  • MA and PhD (English; University of Bristol)


After completing a BA in English and History at Keele – following a brief foray into Music – I moved to Bristol to pursue an MA with a particular focus on English Romanticism, sowing the seeds for a long-standing interest in the Gothic imagination and all things watery. At Bristol I completed my PhD, ‘Treacherous Lines: Death and the Limits of Language in Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville’, which fostered another enduring interest in theories of poststructuralism and deconstruction. I joined the University of Birmingham in 2015.


My teaching and supervision focuses primarily on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, though I have taught widely across the discipline. I convene a number of modules for English Literature and American & Canadian Studies students. Courses I currently convene include:

  • Literature at Sea (Level 3, co-convenor with Dr Fariha Shaikh)
  • American Frontiers: Nation and Identity in the Nineteenth Century (Level 3, convenor)
  • Gothic (Level 2)

Other courses I teach, or have taught on, include:

  • Nineteenth-Century Senses (MA)
  • Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century (MA)
  • Victorian Literature (Level 2)
  • Uses of Genre (Level 2)
  • Tragedy (Level 2)
  • New World Orders (Level 2)
  • Plays & Performance (Level 1)
  • Prose (Level 1)
  • Discovering North American Literature (Level 1)
  • Research Skills in American and Canadian Studies (Level 1)

Postgraduate supervision

I would be delighted to supervise postgraduate work and research projects, and invite expressions of interest, in any of the following areas:

- Nineteenth-century American literature – especially Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Chesnutt, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Richard Henry Dana Jr.

- The Gothic – I have research specialisms in American Gothic, maritime Gothic, contemporary British Gothic, and sonic Gothic, but I maintain an interest in the genre across periods and regions.

- Maritime writing, the deep sea, and coastal studies; critical theory – especially oceanic studies (the Blue Humanities), animal studies, ecocriticism, and poststructuralism; the American frontier.

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


There have been two main strands to my research to date: the American Gothic and the literature of the sea. I am interested in these as both individual and overlapping areas of study; I also maintain a long-standing interest in the work of Herman Melville.

My first book, Gothic Utterance: Voice, Speech and Death in the American Gothic (UWP, June 2021), explored the many voices we hear in nineteenth-century American Gothic writing: haunted, haunting, disembodied, from beyond the grave, unintelligible, and animal. I am still substantially motivated by careful attention to strange, disruptive, outlandish “Gothic” voices. I’m especially motivated by the following questions: What ethical imperatives are loaded into encounters with Gothic voices? What do these voices demand? What do we gain by listening to them (or lose by ignoring them)? How does the Gothic voice help us comprehend the limits and shortcomings of our own worldview? What does it mean to commune with monsters?

The other strand of my research focuses on the literature of the sea – especially in nineteenth-century writing, in whaling literature, and gothic literature. I am currently involved in several projects that explore the cultural histories of our seas and beaches.

•    With Dr Laurence Publicover (Bristol), I’m writing a book titled The Seafloor: A Human History, exploring the profound human presence that exists in a region that is so frequently imagined as being beyond the ken of the human.

•    My second monograph examines the political histories of Britain’s and Ireland’s coastlines, as imagined in the Gothic tradition. The book, Gothic Coasts: Littoral Terrors in Britain and Ireland, 1700–Present, is under contract with Cambridge University Press, for their Elements in the Gothic series; it tells a story of our coastlines from Robinson Crusoe through to Brexit and twenty-first century migration.

•    I co-convene the Haunted Shores research network. In 2021, we published an anthology of gothic fiction, Our Haunted Shores, with the British Library. This network is open to anyone who is interested in the representation of coastal regions in the Gothic, or in how a Gothic vocabulary frequently infuses how we speak about the liminal, shifting sands of our shorelines. Another off-shoot of this is my abiding interest in the Gothic literature of the Fens in East Anglia – especially in work by Caryl Churchill, Daisy Johnson, Susan Hill, and Michelle Paver.

•    My next project on shorelines will depart somewhat – though not entirely – from the Gothic, as I turn to the role of beaches and bayous in late-nineteenth-century American local colour writing. This work explores the coastal communities and livelihoods depicted in work by writers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Celia Thaxter, Kate Chopin, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Sui Sin Far, and – a later writer – Rachel Carson.

More recently, I have become interested in the literary culture local to Birmingham and the Midlands. This has developed into an emergent research project on the Gothic literary history of the region: I am currently editing a special issue of the Midland History journal (for 2024) exploring the ‘haunted Midlands’. My particular interests here are on works by writers such as Elizabeth Jane Howard, Robert Aickman, Francis Brett Young, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, and Washington Irving.

Other activities

I’m currently Admissions Tutor, alongside Dr Eleanor Dobson, for English Literature and for American & Canadian Studies.

Through my work on the sea, I work closely with the Perspective from the Sea research cluster, an interdisciplinary research group established at the University of Bristol.

I have reviewed for Gothic Studies, The Journal of Victorian Culture, MLR, and American Literary History.


Recent publications


Packham, J, Alder, E & Passey, J (eds) 2024, Coastal Gothic: Haunted Shores and Littoral Cultures. University of Wales Press.

Alder, E, Packham, J & Passey, J (eds) 2022, Our Haunted Shores: Tales From the Coasts of the British Isles . Tales of the Weird, vol. 31, British Library.

Packham, J 2021, Gothic Utterance: Voice, Speech and Death in the American Gothic. Gothic Literary Studies, University of Wales Press. <https://www.uwp.co.uk/book/gothic-utterance/>


Packham, J, Passey, J & Alder, E 2022, 'Introduction: creeping along the endless beach', Gothic Nature: New Directions in Eco-Horror and the EcoGothic, vol. 3, pp. 2-18. <https://gothicnaturejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Gothic-Nature-Issue-Three.pdf>

Packham, J 2019, 'Children of the Quorn: the vegetarian, raw, and the horrors of vegetarianism', Gothic Nature: New Directions in Eco-Horror and the EcoGothic, vol. 1, pp. 78-102.

Packham, J 2018, 'The gothic coast: boundaries, belonging, and coastal community in contemporary British fiction', Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 205-221. https://doi.org/10.1080/00111619.2018.1524744

Packham, J & Punter, D 2017, 'Oceanic studies and the gothic deep', Gothic Studies, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 16-29. https://doi.org/10.7227/GS.0026

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Packham, J & Publicover, L 2023, The decontextualised deep: fathoming the whale. in K Nagai (ed.), Maritime Animals: Ships, Species, Stories. Animalibus: Of Animals and Cultures, Pennsylvania State University Press. <https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-09537-0.html>

Packham, J 2021, The maritime self on the American whaleship. in S Liebich & L Publicover (eds), Shipboard literary cultures: reading, writing, and performing at sea. 1 edn, Maritime Literature and Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 131-156. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85339-6

Book/Film/Article review

Packham, J 2021, 'Review of Edward F. Mooney, Living Philosophy in Kierkegaard, Melville, and Others: Intersections of Literature, Philosophy, and Religion', Modern Language Review, vol. 116, no. 1, pp. 154–156. <https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/modelangrevi.116.1.0154>

Packham, J 2021, 'Ruth Heholt and Melissa Edmundson (eds), Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out (review)', Gothic Nature: New Directions in Eco-Horror and the EcoGothic, no. 2. <https://gothicnaturejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/1-GN2-Book-Reviews-J-Packham.pdf>

Packham, J 2020, 'Henry T. Cheever, The Whale and His Captors; or, The Whaleman’s Adventures, ed. Robert D. Madison (review)', American Literary History. <http://Henry T. Cheever, The Whale and His Captors; or, The Whaleman’s Adventures, ed. Robert D. Madison>

Packham, J 2019, '‘Billy Budd, Sailor’ and Other Uncompleted Writings by Herman Melville, Harrison Hayford et al', Modern Language Review, vol. 114, no. 2, pp. 358-360. https://doi.org/10.5699/modelangrevi.114.2.0358

Special issue

Packham, J (ed.) 2024, 'Haunted Midlands', Midland History, vol. 48, no. 3.

Alder, E, Packham, J & Passey, J (eds) 2022, 'Gothic Nature: Haunted Shores', Gothic Nature: New Directions in Eco-Horror and the EcoGothic, vol. 3. <https://gothicnaturejournal.com/issue-iii/>

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