Dr Jimmy Packham

Photograph of Dr Jimmy Packham

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in North American Literature

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I work on the representation of voice and the failure of language in nineteenth-century American Gothic literature, and on the literature of the sea and the presentation of subjectivity and oceanic depths in a variety of textual forms: novels, poetry, shipboard diaries, and logbooks. I teach widely across the discipline, primarily nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.


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


After completing a BA in English and History at Keele, I moved to Bristol to pursue an MA and doctoral work in English Romanticism and 19th-century American literature. 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 the core modules in first year for English and for American and Canadian Studies. Courses I teach, and have taught on, include:

  • Nation & Identity in Nineteenth-Century America (Level 3, convenor)
  • Gothic (Level 2)
  • Victorian Literature (Level 2)
  • Tragedy (Level 2)
  • New World Orders (Level 2)
  • Plays & Performance (Level 1, convenor)
  • Discovering American Literature (Level 1, convenor)
  • Research Skills in American and Canadian Studies (Level 1, convenor)

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome research projects and postgraduate supervision in any of (and any combination of) the following areas:

  • Late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century American literature
  • American Gothic
  • Literature of the sea, from the Romantic period to the present day.

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 American Gothic concentrates on the literary representation of the speaking and writing subject in late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic literature – the subject of my doctoral work and first monograph, Death and the Limits of Language in Nineteenth-Century American Gothic. I am interested in the ways in which death – as both a figurative and literal phenomena – is depicted as impinging on many of the voices present in America’s emergent literature. As America sought to establish its own ‘voice’ in the wake of the revolution, in which the new nation might speak, the Gothic literature of the era taps into the anxieties attendant on such a process. These anxieties play out against a backdrop of questions of authority, colonial violence and the violence of slavery, indigenous displacement, and developments in communication technologies, producing an America haunted by lost or disembodied voices. My work explores how the new American voice of the nineteenth century is a Gothic voice. Off the back of this work, I am interested more generally in systems of signification in American writing and culture, including tattooing and the ‘voices’ of the American wilderness.

The other strand of my research – the literature of the sea – focuses on explorations of voice and subjectivity in maritime writing, and in 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. 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. My work on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick has been published in MLR and a co-authored piece on the Gothic poetry of the deep is forthcoming in Gothic Studies.

Other activities

I have sat on the student-staff committee for American and Canadian Studies.

From September 2017, with Dr Eleanor Dobson, I will be an admissions tutor for the department.

I am involved in the university’s new nineteenth-century research centre. And through my work on the sea I am a participant in the interdisciplinary research cluster ‘The Perspective from the Sea’, which involves scholars from other universities and maritime institutions, and explores the nature of writing at sea. I have co-organised a number of public events, including a workshop on maritime ritual at the ss Great Britain and a seminar on the cultural history of whale song.



  • Death and the Limits of Language in Nineteenth-Century American Gothic (in progress)


  • ‘Pip’s Oceanic Voice: Speech and the Sea in Moby-Dick’, MLR, 112.3 (2017), 567-584
  • ‘Oceanic Studies and the Gothic Deep’, with David Punter, Gothic Studies (forthcoming, 2017)
  • ‘Franz Kafka’ and ‘Voodoo’, in The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, eds. William Hughes, David Punter and Andrew Smith (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)


  • ‘Review: Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600—Present, ed. Charlotte Mathieson’, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies (2017), 113-118