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 are two strands to my research: 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 research on the nineteenth-century American Gothic concentrates on the many voices that emanate from this literature – haunted, haunting, disembodied, from beyond the grave, unintelligible, and animal. This forms the basis of my first monograph, Gothic Utterance: Voice, Speech and Death in the American Gothic (UWP, June 2021). The aim of this work is twofold. First, to establish the profound significance voice and speech have within the American Gothic tradition of the nineteenth century, demonstrating the extent to which death haunts acts of speaking in American Gothic writing and interrogates the troubling foundations of the American experience. The Gothic is a noisy genre, suffused with the sounds and the voices of the dispossessed and the marginalised. My work explores the presence of the Gothic voice in several uniquely American spaces and the voices that occupy them, including the frontier, the plantation, and the Civil War battlefield. Second, this work seeks to further our understanding and theorising of literary voices, emphasising the predominant features and cadences of literature’s Gothic voices. In particular, it is emphasises the ethical imperatives 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?

The other strand of my research – the literature of the sea – both overlaps with and stands distinct from my Gothic work. My second monograph focuses on the intersection of the sea and the Gothic in an exploration of Britain’s "Gothic coast". I have recently started to think about the long legacy of the coast as a key location in the British Gothic tradition and my next book focuses on this, charting its development from the late 1700s to the present; my work to date has offered readings of the political significance of coastal spaces in contemporary British Gothic fiction.

I am also interested in the literature of the deep sea. I am currently engaged on a project on the cultural history of the deep sea with Dr Laurence Publicover (Bristol): The Deep: A Human History. My research engages with a wide variety of texts, from novels and poetry, to diaries written on shipboard, such as that kept by Charles Darwin or passengers aboard the ss Great Britain, to the logbooks kept by American whalers.

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


Alder, E, Passey, J & Packham, 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

Packham, J 2017, 'Pip's Oceanic Voice: Speech and the Sea in Moby-Dick', Modern Language Review, vol. 112, no. 3, pp. 567-584. https://doi.org/10.5699/modelangrevi.112.3.0567

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Packham, J & Publicover, L 2023, The decontextualised deep: fathoming the whale. in K Nagai (ed.), Maritime Animals: Ships, Species, Stories. Pennsylvania State University Press.

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

Packham, J 2017, 'Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea,1600-Present, ed. by Charlotte Mathieson (review)', Leviathan, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 113-118. https://doi.org/10.1353/lvn.2017.0009

Special issue

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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