Jimmy Packham

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

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.

Qualifications

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

Biography

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.

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

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.

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