Dr Jimmy Packham

Photograph of Dr Jimmy Packham

Department of English Literature
Lecturer 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.

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: Death and the Voice in Nineteenth Century American Gothic (under contract with the University of Wales Press). This work investigates the profound significance voice and speech have within the American Gothic tradition of the nineteenth century, unpacking 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. As such, it is a genre eminently suited to exploring the peculiar valences of the emergence of a uniquely (and troubled) American voice across the nineteenth century. 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. More broadly, this work seeks to further our understanding and theorising of literary voices, emphasising the predominant features and cadences of literature’s Gothic voices.

The other strand of my research – the literature of the sea – overlaps and stands distinct from my Gothic work. This work focuses on explorations of voice and subjectivity in maritime writing, and the representation of oceanic depths in fictional and nonfictional texts. I am interested in how being at sea changes how we write about the self, how the self changes at sea (and how the sea itself is an agent in that change), and how we get to grips with and think about the creatures, dangers, immense abysses, and voices of the ocean’s depths. For this work, I am interested in both British and American writing, from the Romantic era to the present day. I am at the beginning of a new project on the cultural history of the deep sea with Dr Laurence Publicover (Bristol). 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.

A third research interest emerges again at the intersection of the sea and the Gothic: Britain’s Gothicised coast. I have recently started to think about the long legacy of the coast as a key location in the British Gothic tradition; my work to date has offered readings of the political significance of coastal spaces in contemporary British Gothic fiction.

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.



  • Gothic Utterance: Death and the Voice in Nineteenth Century American Gothic (in progress, for University of Wales Press’ Gothic Literary Studies imprint)


  • ‘The gothic coast: boundaries, belonging, and coastal community in contemporary British fiction’, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 60.2 (2019), 205-221
  • ‘Oceanic Studies and the Gothic Deep’, with David Punter, Gothic Studies, 19.2 (2017), 16-29
  • ‘Pip’s Oceanic Voice: Speech and the Sea in Moby-Dick’, MLR, 112.3 (2017), 567-584
  • ‘Franz Kafka’ and ‘Voodoo’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, eds. William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)

Review essays and reviews

  • ‘Children of the Quorn: The Vegetarian, Raw, and the horrors of vegetarianism’ in Gothic Nature (forthcoming, 2019)
  • ‘Herman Melville, ‘Billy Budd, Sailor’ and Other Uncompleted Writings, ed. by Harrison Hayford et al’, MLR, 114.2 (2019), 358-360‘
  • Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600—Present, ed. Charlotte Mathieson’, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 19.1 (2017), 113-118

View all publications in research portal