Jimmy Packham


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

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.


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

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.


  • 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.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • PR English literature
  • Gothic Literature
  • Maritime Writing
  • Nineteenth-Century Literature
  • PS American literature


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